Laura Smith
(517) 355-0002

C105 Kresge Art Center
600 Auditorium Rd
East Lansing, MI 48824

FacultyArt, Art History, and DesignAmerican Indian and Indigenous Studies

Associate Professor
Art History & Visual Culture


Laura Smith is an art historian with specializations in North American arts, Native North American arts, and photography.  She is affiliated faculty with American Indian and Indigenous Studies and Core Faculty with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.  She received a Ph.D. in art history from Indiana University in 2008, and holds a MA in art history from the University of New Mexico (2002).  As a child of the Civil Rights movement era, her teaching philosophy connects with the broader scope of her research to construct a more inclusive art history by bringing attention to the ways art institutions and the conventional boundaries of art history have privileged white male visual media and artists. Her writings focus on Indigenous artists and subjects who have used/use technological inventions (such as photography, video, and digital media) to control representation, affirm and explore identities, and to challenge their disenfranchisement under North American settler colonialism.  Her book Horace Poolaw, Photographer of American Indian Modernity (University of Nebraska Press in June 2016) engages issues of American Indian identity, modernity, and sovereignty in the first half of the twentieth century, a period when a significant number of Indigenous people were profoundly aware of the power of mechanical representation, both in photography and film.  Using methods for understanding and visualizing modernity in diffuse and fluid formats, the book challenges singular and progressive notions of “the modern” upheld in settler art histories and museum exhibitions.   More recently, her research and teaching have addressed digital technologies both in method and content.  Beyond simply enhancing the accessibility and preservation of information or imagery, she is increasingly interested in the ways digital technologies can invigorate art historical pedagogy, facilitate research collaboration, foster interdisciplinary scholarly networks, and promote equity and diversity in the creation and critique of knowledge.


HA250 North American Arts

HA253 Native North American Arts

HA254 Latin American Arts

HA251 History of Photography
(online and traditional formats)

IAH211c Indigenous Visualities in Film, Video, and New Media

IAH211c Indigenous Peoples of North America as Subjects and Makers of Photographs

IAH209 Race and Representation: America in Red, Black, and White

IAH209 Land, Identity, and Belonging in the United States

HA453 Modernisms and Modernities in the Americas 1875-1940


“Indigenizing Canadian Settler Monuments of Indians:  Ehren Bear Witness Thomas’ Make Your Escape (2010),” in Visualities II:Perspectives on Contemporary American Indian Film and Art, Denise Cummings, ed.  Michigan State University Press, 2019.

Co-author with Heather Howard, Marsha MacDowell, and Judy Pierzynowski, “Indigenous Makers and the Animation of Material Narratives,” in Museums and Communities: Diversity, Dialogue, and Collaboration in an Age of Migrations, Jennifer A. Walklate and Viv Golding, eds. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2019.

Horace Poolaw, Photographer of American Indian Modernity, University of Nebraska Press, June 2016 [paperback issue 2021].

“Complex Negotiations: Beadwork, Gender, and Modernism in Horace Poolaw’s Portrait of Two Kiowa Women,” in Locating American Art:  Finding Art’s Meaning in Museums, Cynthia Fowler, ed., Ashgate Press, January 2016 [paperback issue 2021].

“On Indigenous Digit-al Media and Augmented Realities in Will Wilson’s eyeDazzler: Trans-customary Portal to Another Dimension,” PUBLIC: Art, Culture and Ideas, Special Issue: Indigenous Digital and New Media Art, Julie Nagam, Carla Taunton, Heather Igloliorte, eds., December 2016.

“Beaded Buckskins and Bad-Girl Bobs: Kiowa Female Identity, Industry, and Activism in Horace Poolaw’s Portraits,” in For the Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw, exhibition catalogue. New York and Washington, D.C.: The National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, in association with Yale University Press, 2014.

“Modernity, Multiples, and Masculinity:  Horace Poolaw’s Postcards of Elder Kiowa Men,” Great Plains Quarterly 31 (2), Spring 2011.

“Picturing Zuni in the New Deal Era: The Clara Brignac Gonzales Collection of Zuni Day School Drawings and Paintings, 1925-1945,” American Indian Art Magazine, Spring 2005.

“Photography, Criticism, and Native American Women’s Identity: Three Works by Jolene Rickard,” Third Text, 19:1, 2005.

Looking Back and Looking Forward: American Indian Art Studies Today, Laura E. Smith, ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, forthcoming.

Immersive Pedagogy and Visual Accessibility Lesson Plan: “Relational Landscapes: Teaching Chaco Canyon with Immersive Technology (Version II),” Digital Library Pedagogy Group (#DLFteach) Toolkit 2.0, July 2021.
#DLFteach Toolkit Volume 2: Lesson Plans on Immersive Pedagogy · #DLFteach (

Immersive Pedagogy Lesson Plan: “Land and Belonging: Teaching North American Landscape Art with Immersive Technology,” Digital Library Pedagogy Group (#DLFteach) Toolkit 2.0, July 2021.
#DLFteach Toolkit Volume 2: Lesson Plans on Immersive Pedagogy · #DLFteach (

Immersive Pedagogy Lesson Plan: “Relational Landscapes: Teaching Chaco Canyon with Immersive Technology,” (2020) Humanities