History of Art and Architecture

Isaiah Bertagnolli



I am a gay man born a fourth-generation settler under the Big Sky of Montana. I was brought up within the (in)visible histories of colonization set against the natural wonders of the Rocky Mountains and Yellowstone National Park. My research derives from the confluence of where I’m from and who I am, engaging themes of landscape, colonization, gender, and sexuality.

My dissertation, “Landscapes of Disarmament: Antinuclear Arts Activism of the 1980s,” examines the ways artist-activists combatted nuclear proliferation by harnessing the power of the landscape genre. I explore how these protest artworks drew upon and circulated contemporary activist discourses to reveal the geological and planetary scales of nuclear proliferation and highlight the ongoing legacies of nuclear colonization. This research shows how artists reimagined the political possibilities of what landscape art can do for a world on the brink of annihilation.

In addition to my dissertation research, I am also passionate about art histories of gender and sexuality. In Fall 2022, I curated the exhibition “Greer Lankton: Science Fictions,” at Pitt’s University Art Gallery. Drawn from the Lankton archive at the Mattress Factory, this show explored how the trans avant-garde artist used the visuals of science fiction to imagine genders beyond the binary. I previously worked as the archive’s Council on Library and Information Resources Summer Graduate Research Fellow where I helped project archivists to catalog materials for the online digital archive. I received the Marstine Prize for Outstanding Work in the Public Humanities for this project.

Before coming to Pitt, I worked as a Collections Intern on the Marlene Saccoccia Quilt Heritage Project at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. This project digitized over 100 quilts made between 1775-1994 preserved at the Museum and are now accessible on the Montana State Library’s website.

I received my BA in Art History from Columbia College Chicago in 2018, where I transferred after two years at Montana State University.

Education Details

2019 Ph.D. (in progress), History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh
Committee Members: Dr. Alex J. Taylor (Advisor), Dr. Terry Smith, Dr. Jennifer Josten
External Member: Dr. Melissa Ragain

2021 M.A., History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh
MA Thesis: ‘No More Hiroshimas’: Jacob Lawrence’s Hiroshima Series and the Antinuclear Movement
Advisor: Dr. Alex J. Taylor, Second Reader: Dr. Terry Smith

2016-2018 B.A., Columbia College Chicago, Art History, Graduated Magna Cum Laude 
Senior Thesis: The Aesthetic Mythologies of Capitalism
Advisor: Dr. Debra Parr

2014-16, Montana State University, major: Art History, minors: Francophone Studies, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

2015, Université de Franche-Comté, Study Abroad, Art History and French 

Selected Publications

2020 ‘Some Thoughts: A COVID-19 Diary,’ What is a World Question? Before and in COVID-19, edited by Terry Smith (Pittsburgh: Department of Cultural Studies, 2020).

2019 ‘Silver Linings: Atticus Adams in Conversation with Isaiah Bertagnolli’, Metal from Clay: Pittsburgh’s Aluminum Stories, exhibition catalogue (Pittsburgh: University Art Gallery, 2019), pp. 22-27.

Selected Awards

2023-2024 Andrew W. Mellon Predoctoral Fellow, University of Pittsburgh

2023 Dietrich Summer Research Grant, University of Pittsburgh

2022 Gulnar Bosch Travel Award, SECAC

2022 Curricular Development Opportunity, Humanities Engage, University of Pittsburgh

2022 Summer Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Fellow, Asian Studies Center, University of Pittsburgh

2022 Summer East Asian Language Studies Scholarship, University of Pittsburgh

2022 Robert L. Platzman Memorial Fellow, Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections, Regenstein Library, University of Chicago

2022 Arts and Sciences Summer Research Grant, University of Pittsburgh

2021 Dietrich Summer Research Grant, University of Pittsburgh

2021 Marstine Prize for Outstanding Work in the Public Humanities

2020 Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Graduate Research Fellow, Greer Lankton Archive, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh

2020 Japanese Studies Doctoral Research Grant, University of Pittsburgh, postponed due to COVID-19

2020 Arts and Sciences Summer Research Grant, University of Pittsburgh

2019 Dietrich School Arts and Sciences Fellow, University of Pittsburgh

Public Projects

2022 Curator, ‘Greer Lankton: Science Fictions’ University Art Gallery, University of Pittsburgh, September 16-December 9

2022 Co-organizer, ‘Greer Lankton Birthday Bash,’ Mattress Factory Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, April 21

2021 Co-Curator, ‘Pattern Makers,’ Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, February 7-May 9, 2021

Selected Presentations:

2022 Conference Paper, ‘Excavating Nuclear Waste Sites: Fieldnotes from a Cold War Archeologist,’ SECAC

2022 Symposium Paper, ‘Mapping the Stakes: Artists, Cartography, and Nuclear War,’ Indiana University

2022 Symposium Paper, ‘“More Human than Human”: Virtual Humanisms in the World of Blade Runner,’ University of Pittsburgh

2021 Conference Paper, ‘Monuments to Eternity: Onkalo, WIPP, and the Stepped Pyramid of Djoser,’ Royal Geographical Society

2021 Symposium Paper, ‘No More Hiroshimas: Jacob Lawrence’s Hiroshima Series and the Anti-Nuclear Movement of the Early 1980s,’ Rutgers University

2020 Conference Paper, ‘Radiant Eschatologies: Inheritance Project and the Christian Nuclear,’ Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements

Symposia Organized 

2022 Co-organizer and Panel Chair, ‘Queer Afterlives in Artist Archives,’ Mattress Factory and University of Pittsburgh, April 15

2022 Committee member, ‘Virtual Matters: Rethinking Image and Reality in Art History,’ Graduate Student Symposium, University of Pittsburgh, March 25