Art Historian Susan Elizabeth Ryan Receives $50,000 Atlas Award

Art Historian and Art History Professor Susan Elizabeth Ryan, PhD, recently won an Award to Louisiana Artists and Scholars (also known as an ATLAS Award) in the amount of $50,000, for her proposal, “Critical Dressing: The Development of Wearable Technologies as Art and Design.”

Dr. Ryan’s project, which will complete the first historical analysis of wearable and fashionable technologies, in the humanities category, was chosen from a pool of 52 proposals submitted for Fiscal Year 2009-2010. Proposals were solicited for creative and scholarly activities undertaken by Louisiana faculty in all arts, humanities, and social sciences disciplines.

The ATLAS award will support Dr. Ryan in completing a manuscript, Critical Dressing, for which she is under contract with MIT Press.

“Wearable technologies,” Dr.Ryan says, “drive innovations in the expanding realm of mobile media, especially garments that augment our bodies’ capabilities, sense bodily functions for therapeutic purposes, or connect us to online interfaces with social applications.”

Dr. Ryan is presenting a paper this month at the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA)in Istanbul related to her project, called, “Dress Acts: Wearable Technology and Virtuosity.” She will also deliver the paper at the MediaArtHistories conference in Liverpool, England, this month, and interview leaders there, in Wales, and in London about wearable technology.

In her paper, Dr. Ryan explores aromatherapy clothing, mood-activated luminous dresses, and a wide range of other innovative applications such as color-changing fabrics which can be used to monitor autonomic body functions. According to Dr. Ryan, these so-called smart wearables, however beneficial their intent, can advance a notion of subjectivity in step with a market driven approach to economic and social policy, or neoliberalism. Dr. Ryan, an authority in the emerging field of digital media art history and theory, is the author of Somehow a Past: The Autobiography of Marsden Hartley and Figures of Speech: The Art of Robert Indiana, 1958-73. In 2006, she won a competition from the Leonardo Educational Foundation to curate an exhibition called, “Social Fabrics,” at the 2008 College Art Association’s Annual Conference. The exhibition allowed a large audience to view wearable works in action, worn by models walking a runway.

Dr. Ryan is a fellow of the LSU Center for Computation & Technology (CCT) and was also a Principal Investigator for the interdisciplinary Arts, Visualization, Advanced Technologies and Research (AVATAR)’s successful application to the Board of Regents 2008 Multi-Hiring Initiative Program.