Max Fraser Receives 10th Annual Frost Essay Award

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The editorial board of American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s peer-reviewed journal for new scholarship, has awarded the 2013 Patricia and Phillip Frost Essay Award to Max Fraser for his article, “Hands Off the Machine: Workers’ Hands and Revolutionary Symbolism in the Visual Culture of 1930s America,” which appeared in the summer 2013 issue (vol. 27, no. 2).

The Frost Award recognizes excellent scholarship in the field of American art history by honoring an essay, published the previous year in American Art, which advances the understanding of the history of the arts in America and demonstrates original research and fresh ideas. The award, established in 2004, is presented annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to the journal and carries a $1,000 prize. Funding for this award is made possible through the Patricia and Phillip Frost Endowment.

Each year, a jury of three members of the journal’s editorial board selects the winner from articles, interviews and commentaries published in American Art during the previous calendar year. The 2013 jurors were Renée Ater, associate professor of art history at the University of Maryland; Alan C. Braddock, Ralph H. Wark Associate Professor of Art History and American Studies at The College of William and Mary; and Kathleen A. Foster, Robert L. McNeil Jr. Senior Curator of American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The jurors wrote of the prize-winning article, “In an engaging study of art across a range of media—painting, film, photography and prints—this article explores the contested visual terrain of the automobile industry during the Great Depression, critically highlighting ‘the multiple meanings conveyed on and through the bodies of the workers who peopled the factory and its manifold representations.’ Through incisive visual analysis of the worker’s hand and its various incorporations, Fraser reveals how art helped construct and negotiate a complex politics of embodiment. Implicit yet palpable throughout Fraser’s fascinating analysis is the hand of the artist in fashioning a visual discourse of resistance to prevailing industrial forces of incorporation and normalization. Beautifully written and clearly organized into sections that flow lucidly from one to the next, Fraser’s text also skillfully examines artistic themes with timely resonance today, as American workers struggle to pick up the pieces and reintegrate their lives after the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.”

Fraser is a doctoral student in the history department at Yale University. From 2007-2010, he wrote about the labor movement and the economy for The Nation while also directing the magazine’s editorial internship program. Fraser also has written for magazines and journals such as Dissent and New Labor Forum, where he contributes a regular column on the business lobby called “Organized Money.” His dissertation project is a social history of the “hillbilly highway,” which carried white southerners back and forth between the Appalachian South and the Industrial Midwest during the middle decades of the 20th century. Fraser earned a master’s degree from Yale University in 2011 and a bachelor’s degree from University of Pennsylvania in 2006. His award-winning article is available online,

The journal American Art is part of the museum’s active publications program, which also includes books and exhibition catalogs. It is produced by the museum’s Research and Scholars Center, which also administers fellowships for predoctoral, postdoctoral and senior scholars and offers unparalleled research databases and extensive photographic collections documenting American art and artists.  

Information about subscribing, purchasing single issues or submitting articles to the journal, which is published for the museum by the University of Chicago Press, is available online, A complete list of past Frost Essay Award winners and additional information about the award is available on the museum’s website,  

About the Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the vision and creativity of Americans with artworks in all media spanning more than three centuries. Its National Historic Landmark building is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Museum hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. Follow the museum on , YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, , Flickr, Pinterest, iTunes U and ArtBabble. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Smithsonian Information: (202) 633-1000. Website:

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