Art & Art History ETDs


Corey Dzenko

Publication Date



Despite all of the recent attention paid to issues of identity in art history, mainstream ideals of normativity have yet to be fully analyzed and reclaimed as subject positions from which artistic examinations begin. As a symptom of larger culture, there often remains a lack of what sociologist Ruth Frankenberg refers to as cognizance' about the continuing role of normative ideals as they are assumed to be unmarked, or transcendent, positions. While all four of the case studies in this project visually challenge assumptions of normativity, the reception of the work and/or the artist's own descriptions negate some of the criticality offered by their series and demonstrate this lack of cognizance in contemporary U.S. culture. Throughout my project, I offer additional interpretations of the artworks in order to mark the unmarked and to add to the growing body of scholarship that challenges normativity's stronghold in contemporary culture. Case studies in this study about contemporary art photographs include: Suzanne Opton's Soldier (2004-2005) and Citizen (2007), which imagine and order the (domestic) nation in relation to the foreign amid processes of Empire; Gregory Crewdson's tableaux Twilight (1998-2002), Dream House (2002), and Beneath the Roses (2003-2007) that construct normativity by situating the suburbs as an ideal space that thus creates difference between the people who seem to 'belong' in the suburbs and those who do not; Nikki S. Lee's The Ohio Project (1999) as it replicates dominant narrative constructions about subcultures without doing much to challenge the construction of such narratives in the first place; and Kerry Skarbakka's The Struggle to Right Oneself (begun in 2002) that functions as a site to examine how a white male artist must negotiate his own position toward ideals of white masculinity.'



Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Buick, Kirsten

Second Committee Member

Bouton, Ligia

Third Committee Member

Dever, Susan


art, photography, identity, United States, whiteness, masculinity, suburbs