Curator Bios

Catherine L. Futter, Ph.D.
Director of Curatorial Affairs
Catherine L. Futter was appointed Director of Curatorial Affairs in January, 2016. Prior to that, she was The Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Senior Curator of European Arts and The Helen Jane and R. Hugh “Pat” Uhlmann Senior Curator of Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts. She has completed several reinstallation projects for the museum as well as a major international loan traveling exhibition, Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at World’s Fairs, 1851–1939, and several contemporary art and design exhibitions. Catherine has a BA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies from Duke University and a MA and PhD in the History of Art from Yale University. Her dissertation was on the 19th century New York interior decorating and furniture-manufacturing firm of Herter Brothers. Although Catherine is a generalist in the field of decorative arts, her specialization is in American and European decorative arts from 1850 to the present. She has focused on the interaction between different cultures and their influence on the decorative arts from the 15th century to the present.

Catherine’s investigation of the cross-cultural influences on the decorative arts has led to the publication of “Chinoiserie in Northern Italy – Japanned Decoration in a Rare Eighteenth-century Piedmontese Gabinetto in The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art,” in Furniture History and the essay “The Federation of Mankind: Cross-Cultural Influences in the Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs” and co-editor with Jason T. Busch of the catalogue Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at World’s Fairs, 1851–1939. Catherine has curated contemporary design and decorative arts exhibitions: Resting Places Living Things: Designs by Michael Cross; Forever; an installation by British ceramic artist Clare Twomey; and The Future of Yesterday: Photographs of Architectural Remains of World’s Fairs, sculptural photographs by Belgian artist Ives Maes. She has taught the history of European and American decorative arts 1750 to the present at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas, Lawrence, as an undergraduate and graduate course and lectured extensively on decorative arts.


Robert Cohon, Ph.D.
Curator, Ancient Art
Robert Cohon has been Curator of Art of the Ancient World at the Nelson-Atkins and taught at the University of Missouri-Kansas City as a joint-appointment since 1985. With a doctorate from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, he has published extensively in international journals on Roman decorative marble sculpture and forgeries of ancient art. His work at the Nelson-Atkins has included the development of the shows Discovery and Deceit: Archaeology and the Forger’s Craft (1996–7); Treasures of Deceit (1998–2000); Spring Fashions, 1 B.C. (1998); and Echoes of Eternity: The Egyptian Mummy and the Afterlife (2000). As part of the Archaeological Institute of America’s lecture program, he has presented his research in the United States and Canada. His current scholarship focuses on the role of measurement in the designing of sculpture.


Stephanie Fox Knappe, Ph.D.
Samuel Sosland Curator of American Art
Stephanie Fox Knappe, Samuel Sosland Curator of American Art, holds a doctoral degree in art history from University of Kansas where she has taught several courses. She was the exhibition coordinator for the first traveling retrospective exhibition of the work of Aaron Douglas and served as acting curator, European and American painting and sculpture, at the Spencer Museum of Art at KU before joining the staff at the Nelson-Atkins. Knappe contributed to the exhibition catalogues Tales from the Easel: American Narrative Paintings from Southeastern Museums, circa 1800-1950 (University of Georgia Press, 2004), Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist (Yale University Press, 2007) and Romancing the West: Alfred Jacob Miller in the Bank of America Collection (The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 2010). She also contributed scholarship to The Collections of the Nelson-Atkins: American Paintings to 1945 (2007) for which she served as Senior Project Assistant.

She recently curated Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Masterpieces of Modern Mexico from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection and wrote an essay on Buffalo Bill and the Wild West for the catalogue accompanying Go West! Art of the American Frontier from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West organized by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.


Gaylord Torrence
Fred and Virginia Merrill Senior Curator of American Indian Art
Gaylord Torrence is the Fred and Virginia Merrill Senior Curator of American Indian Art at the Nelson-Atkins and Professor Emeritus in Fine Arts, Drake University. He joined the museum’s staff in 2002 as the founding curator of the Department of American Indian Art. In this capacity, he has built much of the institution’s highly regarded American Indian collection and led the creation of a new suite of galleries, opened in 2009.

Many also know Gaylord Torrence as curator of the celebrated 2014-15 exhibition, The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky, originating at Musée du Quai Branly in Paris and traveling to both the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

He is the author of The American Indian Parfleche: A Tradition of Abstract Painting, regarded as a landmark study in the field of Native American art history, and curator and co-author of Art of the Red Earth People: The Mesquakie of Iowa, lauded as one of the first real collaborative efforts involving an art museum and a traditional Native American community. Mr. Torrence also served as principal advisor and contributing author for Arts of Diplomacy: Lewis and Clark’s Indian Collection, an exhibition and publication organized by the Peabody Museum, Harvard University.


Stefanie Kae Dlugosz-Acton
Assistant Curator, Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts
Stefanie Kae Dlugosz-Acton was appointed assistant curator of Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in May 2016. She received her Master’s Degree in Art History from Indiana University in Bloomington, where she worked as a Graduate Assistant to the Director and Curator of Western Art to 1800. Her previous experience includes a fellowship at the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research where she curated Simple Forms, Stunning Glazes: the Gerald W. McNeely Collection of Pewabic Pottery at the Cranbrook Art Museum. She has also held positions at The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University, and the Dallas Museum of Art. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Fibers and Art History from the Kansas City Art Institute.


Ling-en Lu
Associate Curator, Chinese Art
Ling-en Lu, Associate Curator of Early Chinese Art, joined the Museum in 1999. Born in Taiwan, she holds a doctoral degree in Art History from the University of Kansas as well as a Master’s of Library Science from Indiana University. Ling-en has actively presented papers at Art History conferences and has published several articles on Chinese paintings.

During her tenure at the Museum, she has been a part of coordinating The Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology, a special international exhibition organized by the museum and the National Gallery of Art in 1999, and has contributed to the two-volume book, New Perspectives on China’s Past: Chinese Archaeology in the Twentieth Century, which was published by Yale University Press and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in 2004.


Leesa Fanning, Ph.D.
Curator, Contemporary Art
Leesa Fanning is Curator, Contemporary Art at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. She holds a doctorate in art history, from the University of Kansas. She recently curated Janet Cardiff: Forty-Part Motet, Nick Cave: PropertyBill Viola’s The Raft, OpenEnded Group and Bill T. Jones’ After Ghostcatching, Impressions & Improvisations: The Prints of Romare Bearden (organized by the Romare Bearden Foundation), Cao Fei’s RMB City Opera, Through African Eyes (organized by Detroit Institute of Arts), Wolfgang Laib: Without Place–Without Time–Without Body, George Segal: Street Scenes (organized by Madison Museum of Contemporary Art), Tapping Currents: Contemporary African Art and the Diaspora and Siah Armajani: Dialogue with Democracy. Fanning is currently developing a publication on spirituality in contemporary global art for 2018.

Fanning has taught multiple classes on contemporary art at the University of Missouri and the Kansas City Art Institute as well as African art at the University of Kansas. Fanning taught Art In-Depth courses at the museum on ritual and myth, Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle and Shirin Neshat’s Turbulent.

Cambridge University Press published Fanning’s essay, “Willem De Kooning’s Women: The Body of the Grotesque,” in an anthology, Modern Art and the Grotesque. She has also written on Robert Motherwell and Adolph Gottlieb. Fanning was a contributor to the exhibition catalogue, Sparks! The William T. Kemper Collecting Initiative, and most recently wrote essays on T.C. Cannon and Brad Kahlhamer in Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky.


Dr. Aimee Marcereau DeGalan
Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Senior Curator of European Art

Dr. Aimee Marcereau DeGalan is the Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Senior Curator of European Art. Marcereau DeGalan came to the Nelson-Atkins from The Dayton Art Institute (DAI), where she was Chief Curator and Curator of European Art. A specialist in British and French 18th and 19th-century art, Marcereau DeGalan leads the European Arts division, which includes the departments of Ancient Art, European Paintings & Sculpture and Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts. She conducts senior-level research exhibition and catalogue projects and is responsible for acquisitions, interpretation and presentation of the European collections.

Marcereau DeGalan was hired at the DAI in 2012 as Curator of Collections and Exhibitions. Previously, she held curatorial posts at the Fleming Museum of Art at the University of Vermont, The Cleveland Museum of Art and The Detroit Institute of Arts.

Rima Girnius, Ph.D.
Associate Curator of European Painting and Sculpture
Rima Girnius is the Associate Curator of European Painting and Sculpture. Although her interest in European art range from Medieval art to court culture in Renaissance Italy and 17th century Spanish painting, she specializes in Early Modern German and Dutch painting. She holds a doctorate degree in art history from Bryn Mawr College, completing her dissertation on the pictorial spaces of Rembrandt’s history paintings. Prior to joining  the Nelson Atkins in September 2015, she served as the curator at the Figge Art Museum and the Allen Whitehill Clowes Fellow at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. She also participated in the Western Illinois Museum Studies Program as a guest lecturer and adjunct faculty member.


MacKenzie Mallon
Specialist, Provenance
MacKenzie Mallon is Specialist, Provenance at the Nelson-Atkins, where she oversees provenance research, procedures, documentation and review in conjunction with the curatorial departments.  A Kansas City native, Mallon received her BA in History and MA in Art History from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Mallon’s primary research interest is Nazi-era provenance and the art market during World War II. She was the curator of record for the installation Braving Shells for Art: the Monuments Men of the Nelson-Atkins and is the author of “A Refuge from War: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Evacuation of Art to the Midwest during World War II” (Getty Research Journal, February 2016). In addition to her work on provenance research and documentation, Mallon is currently studying the initial development of the Nelson-Atkins collection during the early 1930s.


Keith F. Davis
Senior Curator, Photography
Keith F. Davis is Senior Curator of Photography at the Nelson-Atkins and also serves as an advisor to the Hall Family Foundation. He received a master’s degree in 1979 in art history from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. After a research internship at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, 1978-79, he became Curator of the Fine Art Collections, Hallmark Cards, Inc. Upon the gift to the museum of the Hallmark Photographic Collection, in December 2005, Davis became the Nelson-Atkins’s founding curator of photography.

Since 1979, he has curated some 80 exhibitions, many of which have been toured to leading museums across the United States and, internationally, from Sydney, Australia, to Lausanne, Switzerland. In addition to teaching and lecturing widely on the history of photography, he is the author of nearly twenty catalogues and books, including An American Century of Photography, From Dry-Plate to Digital: The Hallmark Photographic Collection, 2nd edition (Abrams, 1999); The Origins of American Photography, From Daguerreotype to Dry-Plate, 1839-1885 (HFF/NAMA/Yale, 2007); and The Photographs of Homer Page: The Guggenheim Work, New York 1949-50 (HFF/NAMA/Yale, 2009). His various awards include a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (1986-87) for his work on the Civil-War era photographer George N. Barnard. He was honored to be featured in James Stourton’s Great Collectors of Our Time: Art Collecting Since 1945 (Scala, 2007).


April M. Watson, Ph.D.
Curator, Photography

April M. Watson holds a doctorate in Art History from the University of Kansas and an MA in Art History from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. She has a BFA in graphic design from Alfred University. Since she began at the Nelson in 2007, Watson has organized numerous exhibitions. Most recently, Watson co-curated the exhibition Eugene Richards: The Run-On of Time, the photographer’s first museum retrospective. In 2013, she served as the photography curator for Impressionist France: Visions of Nation from Le Gray to Monet, an exhibition of paintings and photographs co-organized with the Saint Louis Art Museum. In addition, she has curated and co-curated several exhibitions from the permanent collection, including Through the Lens: Visions of African-American Experience, 1950-1970; Heartland: The Photographs of Terry Evans, a career retrospective of the artist; About Face: Contemporary Portraiture; Thinking Photography: Five Decades at the Kansas City Art Institute; Time in the West: Photographs by Mark Klett & Byron Wolfe and Mark Ruwedel; Human/Nature: Recent European Landscape Photography; and Hide & Seek: Picturing Childhood. She has also served as the venue curator for the loan exhibitions Richard Learoyd: In the Studio; Edward Steichen: In High Fashion The Condé Nast Years, 1923-1937; and Beloved Daughters: Photographs by Fazal Sheikh. Currently, she is working with the Gordon Parks Foundation on an exhibition and catalogue featuring Parks’s photographs of Muhammad Ali, slated to be on view at the Nelson-Atkins in winter 2019.

Prior to joining the Nelson-Atkins in 2007, Watson served as a curatorial research assistant at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and was an NEA curatorial intern at the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson. Watson has contributed writing and scholarship to numerous exhibitions and catalogues for the University of New Mexico Art Museum, the Center for Creative Photography, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. She has also contributed research and writing to several artist monographs.


Jane Aspinwall
Associate Curator, Photography
Jane Aspinwall has worked with the Hallmark Photographic Collection since 1999 and was the first member of the Photography department at the Nelson-Atkins after the Hallmark collection was gifted in 2005. Previous to this appointment, she served as the curatorial assistant of Photography and worked in the American Art department of the Nelson-Atkins. Aspinwall received a master’s degree in 2001 in art history from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She also holds a master’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in arts management received in 1992 from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Aspinwall was contributor to the book and a co-organizer of the exhibition Developing Greatness: Origins of American Photography, 1839-1885, one of the inaugural exhibitions held in the museum’s Bloch Building in 2007. She was also co-author and exhibition co-curator of Timothy O’Sullivan: The King Survey Photographs. She has curated numerous exhibitions at the Nelson-Atkins, including: In the Public Eye: Photography and Fame; Restoration: Shana and Robert ParkeHarrison; Hide & Seek: Picturing Childhood (co-curated); Exploring Egypt: 19th Century Expeditionary Photography; Heavens: Photographs of the Sky & Cosmos; and Timothy O’Sullivan: The King Survey Photographs (co-curated).


Kimberly Masteller
Jeanne McCray Beals Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art
Kimberly Masteller is the Jeanne McCray Beals Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art. A recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright foundation and the Social Science Research Council, Masteller holds a masters degree in art history from Ohio University and is completing her Ph.D in South Asian Art History at The Ohio State University. Before joining the Nelson-Atkins in 2008, Masteller spent seven years as the assistant curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art at the Harvard University Art Museums. While at Harvard, Masteller curated or co-curated nine exhibitions, including the traveling exhibition, From Mind, Heart, and Hand: Persian, Turkish, and Indian Drawings from the Stuart Cary Welch Collection, and served as the co-author of the related catalogue. Masteller served as a Visiting Assistant Professor for two years at Denison University, where she co-curated a student exhibition of their collections of Southeast Asian and Panamanian art. Masteller has also taught courses in Indian, Islamic and Southeast Asian Art for the Art Institute of Boston, Ohio University and The Ohio State University. Recent publications include a chapter “Cultures of Confiscation” in the 2010 anthology A History of Visual Culture: Western Civilisation from the 18th to the 21st Century.

At the Nelson-Atkins, Masteller curated the museum’s presentation of From the Land of the Taj Mahal: Paintings for the Mughal Emperor’s from the Chester Beatty Library in 2009. Masteller is currently working on a collections catalogue and plans for the future reinstallation of the South and Southeast Asia galleries.