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Breanne Robertson

Greenleaf Visiting Library Scholar

Assistant Professor
Wesleyan University

Photo: Breanne  Robertson

Breanne Robertson received a Greenleaf Visiting Library Award in 2013 to support research on Pan-Americanism in UNM Campus Murals, 1933-1945. At the time of the award, she was an Assistant Professor of American Art, Art History, and American Studies at Wesleyan University in Middleton, CT. 

Her research interests focus on cross-cultural exchange between the United States and Mexico in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American art. Her book project at the time, titled "Pan-Americanism, Identity, and Ideology: Mexican Antiquity in the Art of Hemispheric Defense," sought to examine 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.

Title of Research : Pan-Americanism in UNM Campus Murals, 1933-1945

While at UNM, Robertson considered the implications of when university president James Fulton Zimmerman invited American muralist Kenneth Adams and Mexican modernist Jesús Guerrero Galván to work as artists-in-residence at the University of New Mexico in the late 1930s and early 1940s. 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.