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LaMar Gayles (a native son of the South Side of Chicago) is an archaeologist, independent curator, material culture scholar, and technical art historian. He comes to the PSP program after completing a MA in Museum and Exhibition Studies from University of Illinois at Chicago’s MUSE program while holding two separate positions: Archive and Collections Manager at the South Side Community Art Center and Executive Director at the Union Street Gallery. Gayles earned a Cum Laude BA with a triple major (art history, archaeology, and ethnic studies) from St. Olaf College. He has researched and curated exhibitions on Black American jewelry and its historical progressions from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first century, including the 2021 exhibition “Divine Legacies in Black Jewelry and Metals” at the National Museum of Ornamental Metals. Gayles’s research methodology combines archaeometry, arts-based research, conservation science, scientific instrumentation, art historical analysis, ethnography historical reproduction, technical studies, and qualitative research to explore material and visual culture.
LaMar passed his exams in June 2023 and will present his dissertation proposal in December 2023. His dissertation committee members are: Jennifer Van Horn, Chair (Department of Art History), Lu Ann de Cunzo (Department of Anthropology), Kathryn Benjamin Golden (Department of Africana Studies), and external member Emy Kim (Queens University).
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TOPIC: The Preservation of Black-American Jewelry: Cultural Intent, Historical Legacies, Materials, and Techniques
Gayles’s research will center around conservation research, scientific instrumentation, and technical studies on Black American Material Culture—specifically adornment and jewelry made from found objects, glass, metals, and stones—tracing the historical trajectories of Black Diasporic jewelry and adornment in the Americas from the Before Middle Passage to the present day. Gayles is specifically interested in understanding the materiality and socio-cultural functionality of adornment in the Black Diaspora as tools to showcase individual identity and present cultural mnemonics.
PSP PhD student LaMar R. Gayles Jr. showing a piece by African American mid century modernist jeweler Bob Jefferson who worked in the Bay Area of California. There have been questions around the identity of the pendant’s gemstone components and how the metal areas are showcase signs of oxidation. The student is showing the piece to professor Dr. Jocelyn Alacantara-Garcia from one of the graduate-level art conservation science analytical courses as he prepares the piece for X-Ray Fluorescence analysis in order to aid in identifying elements that exist throughout the metal of the piece.
PSP PhD student LaMar R. Gayles Jr. analyzing a piece of stained glass created by Chicago area African-American artist Quinton Foreman and was created in the 1980s. In the image Gayles is analyzing the piece while completing a condition report and then rehousing the object in more appropriate storage.