Greenleaf Scholar Discusses Pan American UNM Murals

June 3, 2014

Please join the Latin American & Iberian Institute (LAII) and University Libraries for a presentation with Breanne Robertson, a recipient of the Greenleaf Visiting Library travel grant. Robertson will present on "Pan-Americanism (Dis) Unity: Culture and Diplomacy in UNM's 'Good Neighbor' Murals" on Thursday, June 26, 2014, from 12:00-1:00 p.m. in the Zimmerman Library Willard Room. For reference, please see the event flyer.

The Greenleaf Visiting Library Scholar award, funded by a generous gift to the LAII from Dr. Richard E. Greenleaf, provides faculty and graduate students the opportunity to visit the University of New Mexico (UNM) to work with one of the largest and most complete Latin American library collections in the United States.

Robertson's research while at UNM considers the outcome of what took place when, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, university president James Fulton Zimmerman invited American muralist Kenneth Adams and Mexican modernist Jesús Guerrero Galván to work as artists-in-residence at the UNM. As part of this agreement, each artist designed and executed a mural to adorn a new campus building. Adams painted The Three Peoples Mural (1938-1940) for the west wing of Zimmerman Library, and Guerrero Galván completed Union of the Americas (1942-1943) for the corridor of Scholes Hall. Both murals address the theme of pan-American solidarity, a key diplomatic aim of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy. This paper examines Adams' and Guerrero Galván's murals to reveal divergent national conceptions of and strategies for attaining inter-American unity. By situating these works within the international context of World War II and by analyzing the local circumstances surrounding their commissions, their distinct styles and iconography, and, where possible, their public reception, Robertson unpacks the competing intercultural attitudes expressed in these two murals in order to elucidate prevailing racial ideologies and to explain the limited transformative effect of this diplomatic endeavor.

Robertson is an Assistant Professor of American Art, Art History, and American Studies at Wesleyan University in Middleton, CT. She visits UNM as a Richard E. Greenleaf Visiting Library Scholar during the summer of 2014. Her research interests focus on cross-cultural exchange between the United States and Mexico in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American art. Her current book project, titled "Pan-Americanism, Identity, and Ideology: Mexican Antiquity in the Art of Hemispheric Defense," examines the disparate treatment of Maya and Aztec subject matter in U.S. art in order to elucidate the intersection of U.S.-Latin American foreign policy and U.S. domestic race relations under the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.