Elena Fitzpatrick Sifford

Assistant Professor of Art History
Baker Center for the Arts




  • Ph.D., Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • B.A., Oberlin College

 Teaching Interests

What can a work of art tell us about a given place, time, or culture? How did humans across time and space use objects to reflect group identity, promote political ideals, or to venerate a higher power? In short: what does art tell us about us?

I like to think of myself as a leader in the classroom, steering my students through an intellectual journey. Lectures are frequently punctuated by active in class learning opportunities including student debates and discussions, drawing and other visual exercises related to course material, and plenty of video and writing activities. A student in my courses might find themselves debating a fourteenth century commission one week and posing as an ancient sculptural group the next.

My courses include the art history survey as well as courses in the Early Modern period (c. 1500-1800) from a global perspective. This includes courses on the Colonial Americas, Renaissance & Baroque Art and Architecture in Europe, and Pre-Columbian Art.

Prior to joining the faculty at Muhlenberg I taught at Louisiana State University, Pratt Institute, and Lehman College (CUNY).

 Research, Scholarship, Creative Interests

My most recent work investigates the depicting of Africans in the visual culture of colonial Mexico and Peru. “Mexican Manuscripts and the First Images of Africans in the Americas” was published in Ethnohistory (Duke University Press, 2019), and “A Fly in Milk: Fears of Black (In)visibility in New Spanish Painting,” is forthcoming in Emotions, Art, and Religion in Europe, Africa, and the Americas, c. 1400-1800 (Brill).

I have also recently worked with a colleague at Cornell University, Ananda Cohen-Aponte, on several projects addressing issues of diversity and inclusion in the field of art history. We conducted a survey in order to analyze data regarding faculty of color in the professoriate and address ways of widening the pathway in order to diversify the field of Latin American art history.  That resulted in publications entitled “Addressing Diversity and Inclusion in Latin American Art,” Latin American and Latinx Visual Cultures (University of California Press) and “A Call to Action” in Art Journal (College Art Association).

I am a member of College Art Association, Association for Latin American Art, and Renaissance Society of America. Outside of work I enjoy spending time in nature with my husband and kids, playing indoor soccer, practicing yoga, travelling, and visiting museums and historic sites.