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@nau.edu

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 in American national parks and monuments. The book is an examination of the numerous rhetorical strategies of presentation and display used in national parks. Parks are museums that locate, define, exhibit and articulate “America.” These strategies installed in those spaces are extraordinarily powerful but are nevertheless invisible because they have been so naturalized. Both as a practice in museums as well as in art and design fields, and as a methodology or examining that practice, visual rhetoric is a key element in the production of the significance of American national parks for a larger national cultural identity.

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.