Nicole Scalissi

Nicole F. Scalissi is a historian of modern and contemporary art. Her research focuses on issues of identity, equity, and violence in the contemporary United States and at its borders. Dr. Scalissi teaches courses on the histories of modern and global contemporary art, performance-based and social practice, and taste and criticism, from the theoretical perspectives of cultural studies, intersectionality, and critical race perspectives. As a teacher, Dr. Scalissi seeks to cultivate curiosity, create community within each classroom, and help students develop their own critical voices in public-facing assignments and projects. She earned her PhD in the History of Art and Architecture from the University of Pittsburgh (2019), with a focus on Contemporary Art, Theory, and Criticism.

Dr. Scalissi’s book project focuses on artists working in the US who, during the 1970s and beyond, stage scenes of violence against women, Latinx, Black/African American, and Afro-Latinx communities—marginalized communities with which the artists themselves identify—in order to call attention to the prevalence of violence disproportionately committed against people of color in the US at a broader societal level. Through surprise encounter and direct audience engagement, these artists give form to this lived condition of precariousness through their embodied performances, photographs, installations, and videos. This research situates these performances and embodied installations as acts of democratic engagement in the face of biased media representations, social inequity, and inhibited access to art venues, while questioning the ethics of surprise display and how grief or pleasure is conjured in this tension between what’s real and what’s staged. Dr. Scalissi’s current research extends these research concerns about safety, gender, and democracy to consider artwork that directly engages with the increasing frequency of school shootings—a uniquely American violent phenomenon—by examining artist-made video games, guerilla art interventions, and gallery-based artwork as well as commercial films and music videos engaged with this subject since the 1990s.

Recent Publications

“‘An Imagined Border of Safety, Humanitarian Relief, and Creativity’: J.M. Design Studio’s ‘Other Border Wall Project,’” Contemporaneity: Historical Presence in Visual Culture 7 (2018), 

“From #MeToo to What Now?: Coping With Sexualized Violence in Art History,” Constellations Blog (November 2018),

“Review: Firelei Báez: Bloodlines,” Contemporaneity: Historical Presence in Visual Culture 6 (2017),