Kimia Shahi is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Southern California. She researches, teaches, and writes about art and visual culture of the United States and its oceanic surroundings in the long 19th and 20th centuries, with a focus on environmental and multidisciplinary perspectives. She is particularly interested in the intersections of art and knowledge production, and explores how diverse historical media and technologies of visualization—from landscape paintings to drawings, maps, scientific illustrations, navigational guides, and image databases, among other examples—both shape, and are shaped by, changing relationships to environments. Shahi is currently at work on a first book project, Uncertain Contours: Coastlines and Visual Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century America, which expands beyond traditional accounts of nineteenth-century seascape to examine how diverse encounters with coastal environments across art, science, and visual culture reshaped relations between seeing and knowing during a period of U.S. imperial expansion and widening oceanic presence. A second book-in-progress, Information About this Land: Project Documerica and the Environmental Image, examines the roles of new technologies of image-making and information storage in the production and present-day afterlife of Project Documerica, an Environmental Protection Agency initiative to photographically document the state of the American environment in the early 1970s.
Shahi has published articles in scholarly venues such as the journals American Art and Art Papers, and has contributed essays to For America: Paintings from the National Academy of Design, Projektionen: Der Platz als Bildthema, and the award-winning Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment. Topics explored include the economics of watercolor in Gilded-Age America, depictions of gardens in nineteenth-century Chinese export art, and the ecology of salt marshes in the work of Martin Johnson Heade. Forthcoming publications and works-in-progress include a study of slavery and coastal cartography in the Civil War-era U.S. and an essay on the archipelagic landscape paintings of the twentieth-century Hawaiian artist and poet, Reuben Tam. She has received support for her research from the Harvard University Center for the Environment, The Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the High Meadows Environmental Institute at Princeton University, and the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library.
- Ph.D. Art History, Princeton University, 2021
- M.A. Art History, Princeton University, 2016
- M.A. Art History, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 2012
- A.B. Art History, with a minor in Studio Art, Dartmouth College, 2009
- Kernan Brothers Environmental Fellow, Harvard University Center for the Environment, Harvard University, 2021-2023
Summary Statement of Research Interests
Modern art and visual culture, with a focus on 19th-20th century United States; histories and theories of knowledge; landscape painting; exchanges among, art, science, and technology; cartography; oceanic, transoceanic, and coastal histories; environment and ecology; empire and colonialism