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Members' Research Report Archive

The Early Work of Carolyn Gassan Plochmann

Sally Mills, Edmond J. Safra Research Assistant, 2014–2015


Carolyn Gassan, Displaced Persons, c. 1949. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Image: Thesis Gallery, School of Art and Art History, University of Iowa

I am researching the artist Carolyn Plochmann, née Gassan (b. 1926), focusing on her painting Displaced Persons (1949). Having demonstrated precocious talent, Gassan entered the MFA program at the University of Iowa in 1947. In a postwar environment and a department that had recently melded the study of art history with studio art practice, Gassan grappled with the implications of European modernism and with ideas informed by the international students she befriended. Displaced Persons suggests that Gassan sought a space between social realism and abstract formalism to express humanistic ideals, a quest that she pursued and refined throughout her long career.