Nika Elder is Visiting Assistant Professor of Modern/Contemporary Art at the University of Florida. She specializes in North American art from the colonial period to the present. Her research focuses on the politics of representation, particularly as they become manifest through explicit intersections among painting, material culture, and visual culture.
Nika has published on James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Ad Reinhardt and is currently at work on several new projects. A revision and expansion of her dissertation, William Harnett’s Curious Objects interprets the artist’s still lifes of man-made things as a meditation on painting and its place in the post-Civil War era. She recently completed an article on the representation of “blackness” in an early series by contemporary artist Lorna Simpson, and has started an essay on John Singleton Copley’s colonial portraits and whiteness.
Her research has been supported by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, the Wyeth Foundation, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as well as the Department of Art and Archaeology and the Program in American Studies, among other entities, at Princeton.
She has taught American Art at Vassar College, art history in the Princeton Writing Program, and modern art at Rutgers University. Nika received her Ph.D. and M.A., with a certificate in Media and Modernity, from Princeton University, and B.A. in art history and studio art from Wellesley College.
Review of Charles Colbert, Haunted Visions: Spiritualism and American Art (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), in caa.reviews (forthcoming spring 2015).
“William M. Harnett,” in Grove Encyclopedia of American Art, ed. Joan Marter (Oxford University Press, 2010).
“Man-Made: The Objects and Still Lifes of William Harnett,” Material Evidence, Visual Knowledge, University of Southern California, April–May 2015.
“Bodies that Matter: William Harnett’s Early Figurative Work,” Art-at-Lunch Series, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, April 2014.
“About Face: The Undoing of Portraiture in William Harnett’s Money Paintings,” Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art: The Image of Nineteenth-Century Money, College Art Association Annual Conference, Chicago, February 2014.
“William Harnett and the Object of American Painting,” Lunch and Learn Series, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, August 2013.