History of Art and Architecture

Deirdre Madeleine Smith

Lecturer of Museum Studies; Assistant Curator, Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Area of Specialization

Modern and Contemporary Art


In my research and teaching, I focus on what artists, artworks and art as a concept can distinctively articulate about, or offer to, the answering of pressing ethical and ontological questions.

I have recently been writing about the topic of animality and the non-human through studies on the ethics of non-human animal participation in contemporary artworks; the subject of whether animals other than humans make art; the multi-species family as explored by contemporary artists; and non-binary concepts of sex and sexuality in art and science.

Another body of my research concerns the philosophy of labor and the work of conceptual and experimental artists whose practices either explicitly engage themes of labor or whose approaches to practice challenge conventional expectations of time, skill and what it means to make work. My dissertation and in-progress manuscript, The Artist Is Working: On the Work of Being an Artist in Socialist Yugoslavia, take up these themes in the context of Zagreb, Croatia under state socialism in the 1960s to the 1980s through the art of Sanja Iveković, Mladen Stilinović and Goran Trbuljak, and the archives of amateur and professional societies for various art workers in Yugoslavia.

Prior to starting at Pitt and CMNH, I lived and worked for eight years in Austin, Texas. I graduated with my doctorate in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin in 2020 where I also completed a portfolio program in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies. At UT I taught classes on contemporary art, the legacies of the readymade, and non-human animals in art.

I have worked and interned at art institutions running the gamut from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, to a commercial gallery in San Francisco, and a historic home and artist's studio in Austin. I enjoyed a brief stint as a video artist.

Education Details

Ph.D. The University of Texas at Austin

M.A. George Washington University

B.A. Hampshire College

Selected Publications

“The Artist Works: An Imperfective Reading of Mladen Stilinović’s Artist at Work,” Art History 44, no. 5 (2021): 902-921.  

“‘Heavenly Beings’: Art Facing the Animal in Ljubljana,” Third Text 35, no. 2 (2021): 293-313.

“Artiste Anonyme / Anonymous Conceptual Artist / Umjetnik u krizi: Goran Trbuljak’s Names and Namelessness.” Annales Universitatis Paedagogicae Cracoviensis. Studia de Arte et Educatione 263, no. 13 (2018): 29-45.

Selected Awards

Association for Slavic, East European & Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) Dissertation Research Grant