Dr. Tom Patin

Tom Patin , PhD
Director of the School of Art and Professor of Art History
Fine and Performing Arts Building, 212
(928) 523-6970

Tom Patin (Director of the School of Art and Professor of Art History) teaches courses primarily on the history, theory, and criticism of nineteenth and twentieth century art and visual culture. Some years ago he taught studio courses in painting, drawing, photography, and video art. Tom has taught at Western Washington University, Cornish College, and Ohio University.

Tom holds a BFA an MFA (painting, mixed media installation, video), and an interdisciplinary Masters degree in Humanities (art criticism and literary theory). He received a Ph.D. in Art History (twentieth-century art, contemporary theory, architectural theory, visual culture, museology, and Native American art) from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1995. He has received many honors, such as a three-year Professional Development Fellowship in American Art from the College Art Association, and the Carl Bode Award for the best journal article published in American Studies, and two Outstanding Teacher of the Year Awards.

Tom's research centers on visual rhetoric. He is especially interested in the effects and implications of display, presentation, and exhibition in American visual culture. Tom's most recent publishing project, Observation Points: The Visual Poetics of National Parks (University of Minnesota Press, 2012) is an anthology made of fourteen essays on the visual rhetoric associated with North American national parks, national monuments, wilderness areas, historic sites, and other culturally significant spaces associated with nature and the environment. The essays study the uses and functions of visual rhetoric associated with the natural environment and the consequences of that study for our understanding of such things as nature, American history, environmental policy, and nationalism.

Tom’s next project, Nature's Masterpiece; Naturalizing Culture in the National Parks, is a sole-authored book that investigates the development of techniques of displaying nature and human history at American national parks and monuments, with a particular interest in the effects of display upon American environmental politics. The thesis driving this research is that national parks and monuments have operated as apparatuses that have produced, limited, and helped to shape public discourse on nature, and have positioned or "framed" particular social policies and cultural preferences as natural and necessary. The design of these sites is crucial in that it has the power to frame and shape these discussions. Through the use of various techniques of display and exhibition of visual information—in short, through museological rhetoric—parks, monuments, and related institutions help to form our understandings of the environmental history.

Tom has also published Discipline & Varnish (1999) which concerns the relationships of museum and exhibition design, art criticism, and personal/ethnic identity; and ArtWords (1997), a glossary of contemporary art theory and critical terminology. His scholarly essays have been published in Prospects, The Journal of American Culture, Yellowstone Science, Journal of Architectural Education, Western Historical Quarterly, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Artspace, New Art Examiner, as well as in numerous anthologies and exhibition catalogues.