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SOP - History of Art


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I was wondering if anyone would mind looking this over. I'm applying for a PhD in the History of Art. I've had a ton of work experience, but I haven't been in an academic setting in a while and I'm concerned that my writing style is too simplistic, or worse that my SOP is terrible. I don't have any professors or colleagues from academia to help me with this...any advice is welcome. Thanks!

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I want to pursue a PhD in the History of Art specializing in Material Culture and focusing on twentieth century furniture design at XXXX University under the guidance of Dr. XXX. My professional pursuits have led me to a desire to obtain a greater academic backing for my passion for decorative arts and furniture design. XXX offers the most appropriate program. Not only is it an important institution for the history of art, but also for modern architecture and design, integral components to the history of furniture design. The classes on furniture design taught by Dr. XXX, coupled with his academic leadership in the study of decorative arts and furniture, has set XXX's History of Art Department apart from other PhD programs and I would be privileged to pursue a degree at your institution. Under Dr. XXX's supervision, I would like to examine the American Studio Craft Movement and its influence on contemporary furniture design.

Currently, I direct XXX Gallery, a leading modern and contemporary furniture design gallery in New York City. My most fulfilling responsibilities include researching twentieth century furniture for cataloguing purposes and working directly with contemporary furniture designers. The gallery's owner and I share a passion for the American Studio Craft Movement and have managed to create a cohesive mixture of vintage and contemporary furniture that flows effortlessly between the eras. We strive to represent contemporary designers that work within the Studio Craft ethos of truth to materials and superior craftsmanship. In our gallery, Max Lamb's contemporary carved stone coffee table with its rough hewn edges is next to a chainsaw-carved burlwood coffee table from the 1970s by California craftsman, J. B. Blunk. Lamb, who completed an artist residency at the Blunk Estate, feels a great affinity for the older designer and his work echos his veneration. Contemporary Korean designer, Kwangho Lee creates furniture in baked copper and enamel. His debt to Studio Craft Master Paul Evans is undeniable. The brutish shape and material of his welded copper cabinets is tempered with a beautiful and delicate enamel in the same way that Evans's sculpture-front cabinets from the previous century mitigate their masculine appearance of welded steel with delicately sculpted ornamentation on the doors. Young British designer, Simon Hasan employs the medieval technique of cuir bouilli, or boiled leather, to make furniture and decorative objects in the same way that George Nakashima utilized traditional Japanese techniques such as butterfly joints when making his slab wooden furniture in the second half of the twentieth century. The gallery introduced me to the ongoing conversation between the masters of the American Studio Craft Movement and their contemporary design disciples and I would like to achieve a greater academic understanding of decorative arts and furniture to examine this topic more closely.

My passion for furniture and decorative arts began at an early age. I grew up in a family of weekend woodworkers and flea market treasure hunters near the workshops of furniture designers George Nakashima, Phil Powell, and Paul Evans. I had an early interest in historical objects and spent my summers wandering around the Mercer Museum, a collection of historical objects and decorative arts with a summer camp that offered children a curatorial-based program, introducing them to the items in their collection and the long-abandoned crafts used to make them. My interest continued into college, where I studied eighteenth and nineteenth century British furniture which led to a Master's Degree in Art History from the University of St. Andrews. My first position after my degree was at Rago Arts and Auction Center, an auction house in Lambertville, New Jersey that specializes in twentieth century decorative arts and furniture. Rago afforded me the fortunate opportunity to learn about the American Studio Craft Movement through direct contact with the objects and their makers including Phil Powell, Wendell Castle, Vladimir Kagan, George Nakashima's daughter, Mira, and Paul Evans' assistant Dorsey Reading. When I first began directing XXX Gallery, while completing my Master'sDegree from Sotheby's Institute of Art, I was asked to research and host a fledgling television program for an Australian production company. The program, entitled “Designer People,” gave me the opportunity to travel and interview important members of the design community including Yves Behar, PatriziaMoroso, and Nicholas Negroponte.

My professional experiences have given me a greater variety of opportunities than other PhD candidates and I would like to apply my practical knowledge to an academic career with the ultimate goal of teaching the Historyof American Furniture Design. The academic foundation from XXX in conjunction with my passion for furniture design will help me to achieve that goal. For my proposed focus, I want utilize my professional contacts to examine the Studio Craft Movement and its influence on contemporary design. The department chair described "the most exciting thing about the History of Art at XXX," as its constant reassessment which assists the department to "continually re-invent and re-imagine what we study and why." I am asking you to accept me into your program so that I can pursue a PhD under the guidance of Dr. XXX and keep the History of Art exciting and pertinent by bringing a focus to modern and contemporary furniture design at XXX University.

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