Current Graduate Students Bios


Ph.D. Students

Zoe Appleby is a second-year doctoral student studying medieval art history with Professors Elizabeth Bolman and Elina Gertsman. She concentrates on crossculturalism in the medieval Mediterranean world and cultural exchange in the liminal zones of the Byzantine empire. Her interests also include abstraction, materiality, cultural memory, and monumentality. Zoe holds an MA in medieval art history from UC Riverside, where she worked with Professor Conrad Rudolph on the aesthetic philosophy of Augustine of Hippo. The research on the Hagia Sophia she presented at the 2019 Cleveland Symposium won the award for Best Graduate Student Paper in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at UCR. As a visiting lecturer at UCR in 2021, Zoe designed and taught an upper division course, “Memory of the Empire: The Art of Early Medieval Europe and Beyond,” which focused on cultural synthesis and the communication of power and spirituality through inherited visual languages across the Mediterranean. She has directed Agora Foundation seminars on medieval literature and poetry, including a series on Jewish, Christian, and Islamic poetry called “Words of Divine Love in the Medieval East & West,” and another on “Le Morte d’Arthur.” Outside of the museum and classroom, her passions are rock climbing and mixing cocktails.

Tess Artis is a first-year doctoral student studying medieval devotional art with Professor Elina Gertsman. She graduated with her MA in Art History in 2021 from the University of South Florida where she remained to teach undergraduate courses before deciding to pursue her doctorate. In the fall of 2022 she presented her paper, “Unutterable and Raging Desire: The Bride of Christ and the Canticum Canticorum,” at the annual SECAC conference in Baltimore. Her research interests include devotional manuscripts and incunabula, monasticism, mystical marriage imagery, women and gender, and the intersections of spirituality and sexuality in medieval Europe. After a happily misspent youth, Tess accepted her vocation as an art historian after a memorable trip to Italy during which she lectured her long-suffering family all the way from the Amalfi coast to Venice.

Claudia Haines is a first-year doctoral student studying medieval art and architecture with Professor Elina Gertsman. Her research interests include medieval illuminated manuscripts, spanning both the Western and Byzantine traditions, as well as the intersection of medieval art history and museum studies. Claudia earned her MA in Art History and Museum Studies from Tufts University, where she studied under Professors Christina Maranci and Alice Sullivan. She has recently presented papers at the 58th International Congress on Medieval Studies and the 47th St. Louis Conference on Manuscript Studies. During her time at Tufts, Claudia also served as a research assistant at the Tufts University Art Galleries, where she contributed to the fall 2021 exhibition “Connecting Threads / Survivor Objects.” She also served as a co-organizer for the session “Digital Medievalism” at the Association for Art History Annual Conference, held at University College London in April 2023. A Pennsylvania native, Claudia holds a BA in Art History from the University of Pittsburgh. Outside the classroom, she enjoys dancing, going to concerts, and taking care of her many houseplants.

Rebekkah Hart is a second-year doctoral student studying late medieval art with Professor Elina Gertsman. She received her MA in Art History from University of California, Riverside, where she studied late medieval alabaster sculpture. Rebekkah recently presented papers at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo and the ARDS Colloquium on Current Research in Medieval and Renaissance Sculpture in Paris. Her first publication, “Powders and Plasters: Alabaster and the Curative Consumption of Holy Medieval Sculpture,” is slated to appear in the postprint volume of the Paris ARDS conference. Her research interests include the role of sensorial reception, performativity, and materiality in late medieval devotional imagery. She also finds herself drawn towards art historical and archeological approaches to medieval graffiti and the medical humanities. She is currently serving as the co-chair for the upcoming 49th  Annual Cleveland Symposium, “Surface Tension: Water, Waterways, and Art,” which will take place in October 2023.

Luke Hester is a first-year doctoral student studying Byzantine art history with Professor Elizabeth Bolman. He received his MA in Art History from Case Western Reserve University. He has also worked with Professor Elina Gertsman on topics in later medieval art including the materiality of Byzantine micromosaics held in Western collections and an ecocritical reading of Hildegard of Bingen’s illuminated Scivias. For the latter subject Luke won the Friends of Art Best MA Paper Award with his Qualifying Paper, “Greening Power.” His interests lie in late antique and early medieval Christian visual culture of the eastern Mediterranean and Northern Africa. He is currently studying the mosaic decoration of early Christian baptisteries and churches near Carthage, investigating these spaces as sites of identity formation. While interning at the Cleveland Museum of Art, he worked under Gerhard Lutz on the upcoming reinstallation of the late antique, early medieval, and Byzantine galleries. Luke also serves as the Secretary of the Byzantine Studies Association of North America’s Graduate Committee and as Vice-President of Finance for CWRU’s Graduate Association of Medieval Studies. More likely than not, you will find him in a local coffee shop sipping a cortado or tending to the garden.

Cecily Hughes is a second-year doctoral student studying with Professor Elina Gertsman. With an avid interest in medieval art, she is especially drawn to games and the wit and humor with which medieval makers imbued their objects. Recently, she has presented papers at the Yale Pre / Early Modern Forum and the NLHF Medieval Animals Heritage Conference at Canterbury Christ Church University in the UK. Cecily completed an MFA in Visual Culture at the University of Edinburgh. In 2022, she received her MA in the History of Art and Architecture from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her previous work includes positions at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, Scotland. She also worked as a personal assistant to contemporary Scottish artist Kevin Harman. Cecily loves teaching and making medieval art accessible to all, adores dogs, enjoys swimming, and tolerates bad puns.

Alexandra Kaczenski is a sixth-year PhD student studying late medieval art with Professor Elina Gertsman. Her research focuses on the medieval body and devotional practice, as well as on arts of the nineteenth century. She co-authored the book Sacred Landscapes: Nature in Renaissance Manuscripts with Dr. Bryan Keene, to coincide with their exhibition of the same name (Getty Museum, 2017). She has also presented papers at the UCLA Art History Graduate Student Symposium, the Medieval Association of the Pacific, and the Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference. In 2020 was awarded the Friends of Art Best PhD Paper. Alexandra comes to Cleveland from her native Los Angeles where she worked as both Curatorial Graduate Intern and Curatorial Assistant in the Manuscripts Department at the J. Paul Getty Museum. She received her MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2013, and has held positions at Bonhams Auctioneers and the New Orleans Museum of Art, among others. She served as the curatorial intern for the Medieval Art Department at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2020/21. Alex was recently selected as the next Chair of the Board of Directors for the Vagantes Conference on Medieval Studies. In 202223 she was the Curatorial Intern at the Norton Simon Museum.

Jillian Kruse is a fourth-year PhD student studying nineteenth-century European art with Professor Andrea Rager. Her research interests include late nineteenth-century collaborative and experimental printmaking, early photography, materiality and intermediality, history of collecting, global Impressionism, and ecocriticism. She holds Master’s degrees from the Université de Rennes II and Trinity College, Dublin. From 2017 to 2019, she served as the Margaret R. Mainwaring Curatorial Fellow in Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where she curated the exhibition We the People: American Prints from Between the World WarsJillian has also held positions at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and the National Gallery of Ireland. She has publishedon the collecting craze for French posters in the 1890s in Art in Print, presented on the art of John Ruskin at the Nineteenth-Century Studies Association conference,and was awarded a Getty research grant for her work on the prints of Camille Pissarro. Jillian also currently serves as a curatorial intern in Prints and Drawings at the Cleveland Museum of Art and as the Assistant Bibliographer for the Print Council of America’s Oeuvre Catalogue project.

Benjamin Levy

Benjamin Levy is a sixth-year PhD student working with Professors Andrea Wolk Rager and Henry Adams on late nineteenth-century through mid-twentieth-century art, with a focus on materiality and the artistic process in prints and photographs. Beginning in Fall 2020, Levy will be the curatorial intern in the Photography department at the Cleveland Museum of Art the under the supervision of Dr. Barbara Tannenbaum. This past year he was awarded the Jeremy Norman Scholarship to attend the Rare Book School. Prior to coming to Case, Levy served as the Assistant Curator for Collections & Academic Programs at the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, and as the Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Prints, Drawings & Photographs at the Baltimore Museum of Art. He was a contributing author for the journal Art in Print. Levy was the Co-Director of the 2012 and 2015 Baltimore Contemporary Print Fairs, and serves on the National Advisory Board for the Tamarind Institute, University of New Mexico. A 2009 graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art, Levy studied printmaking, book arts, and photography, gaining collaborative printmaking experience at Harlan & Weaver, Inc. and Dieu Donné in New York.

Marina Mandrikova is a Ph.D. student studying Byzantine visual culture with Professor Elizabeth S. Bolman. Her research explores the images of the damned in Byzantine, post-Byzantine, and Slavic monumental painting, and the nature of their sins, crimes, and punishments. Marina is also passionate about the conservation and preservation of medieval art and architecture. She was a 2020-2021 Graduate Student Fellow of the American Institute for Southeast European Studies and recently completed the ASCSA’s M. Alison Frantz Fellowship in Post-Classical Studies at the Gennadius Library that was held during the 2021-2022 academic year in Athens, Greece. She taught various undergraduate art history courses at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University, and completed museum internships in Russia and Bulgaria. She co-organized two graduate student workshops for the Delaware Valley Medieval Association and presented papers at the DVMA meeting for graduate students and the Byzantine Studies Conferences. Marina transferred to CWRU from Temple University where she started her Ph.D. journey at the Department of Art History under the guidance of Doctor Bolman. Before that, she lived in Russia, where she earned her MA degrees in World Art History and International Relations from the St. Petersburg State University.

Susana Montanes-Lleras is a Ph.D. candidate working with professors Henry Adams and Andrea Rager on European and American art in the long 19 th century, with a focus on book illustration at the turn of the 20 th century. Her research interests include Victorian and Edwardian art, the trans-Atlantic influence of Pre-Raphaelitism, the history of the book, and text and image relations and intertextuality in book illustration. Susana earned her bachelor’s degree from Universidad de los Andes in her natal Bogotá, Colombia, where she majored in Languages and Sociocultural Studies and minored in Art. She also has an MA in World Heritage Studies from B-TU Cottbus, Germany, and a second MA, in Art History, from the Institute of Fine Arts (NYU). She has worked with several heritage preservation institutions, as an independent translator, as a Project Officer for the art department of the British Council, and as a curatorial intern at the Whitney Museum of Art. Last year she was a curatorial intern at the Department of Prints and Drawings of the Cleveland Museum of Art where she cataloged the museum’s collection of prints by Daumier and worked on an exhibition on literary illustrations at the CMA that will open in 2024.

Reed O’Mara, advised by (the saintly) Professor Elina Gertsman, is a fourth-year PhD candidate and Mellon Fellow who focuses on the arts of medieval Germany. Her primary research interests lie in Jewish illuminated manuscripts, Gothic architectural sculpture, and Indian miniature painting. From 2022-23, Reed interned in the Department of Indian and Southeast Asian Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Her article “‘On Golden Tablets’: The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Manuscript as a Self-Referential Icon” appeared in 2020 in Religions as part of a special issue on pre-modern India. She also wrote an entry for the exhibition catalogue Riemenschneider and Late Medieval Alabaster (2023). Reed has presented papers at various conferences, including the Forum Kunst des Mittelalters and the Medieval Academy of America (MAA). Reed served as Chair of the Graduate Student Committee of the MAA 2022-23 and was the Mentorship and Professionalization Coordinator for the Vagantes Conference on Medieval Studies Board of Directors 2021-23. She has been awarded two Graduate Student Appreciation Awards from the School of Graduate Studies, three Best Paper Awards from Friends of Art, and two Rare Book School scholarships. Reed taught Art History 101: Pyramids to Pagodas in summer 2021 and will again fall 2023.

Madeline Newquist is a second-year doctoral student studying with Professors Maggie Popkin and Elizabeth Bolman. Her research is currently focused on exploring cultural exchange and appropriation through the lens of early medieval Italian and Byzantine art. Madeline received dual bachelor of art degrees in Studio Art and History from Indiana University in 2018, and graduated again from IU with Masters in Arts Administration and Curatorial Studies in 2021. She has spent the last five years working with museums in southern Indiana, including the Mathers Museum of World Culture and the Eskenazi Museum of Art. Madeline has an avid interest in the practice of making art and continues to develop her own skills in the mediums of ceramics, drawing, and metalwork. In her free time, she enjoys writing, watching and critiquing films, and traveling as much as she can.

Clara Pinchbeck is a third-year doctoral student studying Late Antique Eastern Mediterranean art with Professor Elizabeth S. Bolman. She is interested in the material culture of Late Antique interior spaces, the transmission and trade of textiles and looms along the Silk Road(s), late Roman information technologies, and the application of digital methods to analyze early Eastern Byzantine histories. Her research primarily focuses on Late Antique Egyptian textiles and their roles within the religious, cultural, political, economic, and geographic networks of the Eastern Mediterranean. In Summer 2023, Pinchbeck joined Professor Maggie Popkin as a part of a global, interdisciplinary archaeological project in Greece, where she took part in American Excavations at Samothrace for seven weeks. Pinchbeck received her BA in Art History and Anthropology from Kenyon College in 2018 and her MA in Digital Art History from Duke University in 2020.

Claire Sumner is a third-year doctoral student studying Italian renaissance art with Professor Erin Benay. She received her MA from the University of Texas at Austin in 2020. Her thesis was entitled Canonizing Zuccaro: The Early Life of Taddeo Series and the Building of an Artistic Legacy. It focuses on Federico Zuccaro’s attempt to control his elder brother Taddeo’s narrative and establish a familial legacy amongst the developing politics of art in 16th Century Rome. Her current research interests focus on the large-scale terracotta sculptures of the Emilia Romagna region and the relationship between material and subject.

Arielle Suskin is a third-year PhD student studying Greek and Roman art and archaeology with Dr. Maggie Popkin. Her research focuses on image replication and distribution of Roman portraits, ancient processes of artmaking, and the lives of ancient artisans. She is a member of the excavation team and Registrar for the American Excavations Samothrace 2023. Beginning in the fall, Arielle will be the curatorial intern in the department of Greek and Roman Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art supervised by Dr. Seth Pevnick. She presented her paper “Artisan Vases from Late Archaic and Early Classical Athens: Mimesis, Material, and Community” at the Archaeological Institute of America 2023 Annual Meeting. She is a member of the 2022 Summer Institute for Technical Studies in Art (SITSA) cohort at the Harvard Art Museums and a 2017 Scholar-in-Residence at the Paestum Archaeological Park with the Newington-Cropsey Foundation Archaeological Program in Paestum. She holds an MA from the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU and a BA cum laude from Tulane University.



Sam Truman is a sixth-year PhD candidate studying medieval art with Professor Elina Gertsman. Sam is currently in the process of writing her dissertation, which focuses on representations of ghosts in northern European manuscripts produced between approximately 1100 and 1500. Recently, she was awarded the Byzantine Studies Conference Graduate Student Paper prize for her paper, “‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’: The Execution of Judas Iscariot in Two Byzantine Marginal Psalters.” Sam has previously held internships at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. She is currently serving as the 2023–2025 Samuel H. Kress Institutional Fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art.



M.A. Students

Megan Alves is a first-year Art History MA student and Barbato Fellow with a passion for incorporating art history into community-based, socially engaged museum practices. She graduated from Oberlin College with Honors and BAs in Art History and Comparative Literature. Her interests include the study of modern and contemporary American and European art, particularly the depiction of the body and the representation of marginalized people. Alves is a seven-year veteran of the museum sector where she held a variety of positions including Collections Assistant and Marketing and Program Manager. In 2022, Alves served as Chief Curator for W/O Limits: Art, Chronic Illness, & Disability which received the Ohio Museum Association’s Best Exhibition and Best Community Partnership (Under $500,000) Awards.

Fiona Chen is a first-year MA student in the Art History program. She holds a MA in History of Christianity from Yale Divinity School and a Certificate in Religion and the Arts from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. Fiona is primarily interested in the history of early and medieval Christianity and its material culture, especially art and artifacts related to death, dying, and the afterlife. She is a Theta Alpha Kappa Graduate Fellowship Award recipient and has presented her research at conferences such as the International Medieval Congress and the International Congress on Medieval Studies. During her time at Yale, Fiona worked as a research assistant in the Education Department at the Yale University Art Gallery.

Sydney Collins is a first-year MA student studying medieval art history. She holds BA degrees in biology and art history from Ohio State University. Sydney is interested in the transition between Late Antique and Early Christian art, and particularly materiality and the Christianization of Byzantium. She has presented her research at SUNY’s New Paltz Undergraduate symposium, and interned at the Wexner Center for the Arts and the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.

Sarah Frisbie is a first-year MA student and Barbato Fellow. She graduated with a BFA in Art History and BA in Global Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she advised on accessioning university collections and helmed the university’s only student-run gallery. Her work champions a thematic, cross-cultural approach to topics ranging from race in medieval Christendom to knight imagery in the fascist era. As a Robinson Fellow, she researched medieval graffiti in the Palais des Papes in Avignon and presented at the Colloque des Graffitis Anciens in La Rochelle. She has interned at Sam Fogg, Saatchi Gallery, and the North Carolina Museum of Art. In her free time, she enjoys climbing, water polo, painting, and cooking for friends.

Darren Helton is a first-year Art History MA student and Barbato Fellow. He graduated summa cum laude from East Tennessee State University in Spring 2023 with BA degrees in Art History and History. He is interested in religious architecture, particularly from Late Classical and Early Medieval Byzantium, and how a space and the objects within it materialize the immaterial. He is also interested in how Christians navigated and adapted art of other religious cultures to their needs. Darren has spent time working in the collections of the Reece Museum, and he enjoys sketching and listening to music in his free time.

Emma Lazerson is a second-year Art History MA candidate and a Barbato Fellow. She graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Art History and a minor in Latin from Emory University in 2022. Her research interests center n the practices of Early Modern Cinquecentowomen artists, and questions of gender and ethnicity. In her final year at Emory, she completed an undergraduate thesis entitled “Performance and Imitation: The Devotional Images of Sofonisba Anguissola” under the supervision of Drs. Jean Campbell and Walter S. Melion, a selection of which was published in Boston University’s graduate art history journal Sequitur in spring of 2023. She has worked as a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum for the exhibits Through a Glass Darkly: Allegory and Faith in Netherlandish Prints and Transcendent Deities of India: The Everyday Occurrence of the Divine.

Sara Miller is a first-year MA student and Cleveland Museum of Art fellow. She graduated cum laude with double BA degrees in Art History and Anthropology from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2021. Sara’s research interests include Etruscan and Roman funerary iconography and how depictions of mythological beings signaled cultural changes in the ancient world. She presented her senior thesis, “Digitalizing the Torch-Bearing Maiden: A New Analysis of the Chthonic Figure Vanth,” at the 2022 SUNY New Paltz Undergraduate Art History Symposium. Sara previously worked at Glen Echo Park as a gallery assistant and as an intern at the Michelle Smith Collaboratory for Visual Culture. In her free time, she writes fantasy stories and sketches in museums.

Laura Rybicki is a second year MA student in the Art History and Museum Studies program and a Keithley Fellow. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Austin with a BA in History, and she has worked at the Blanton Museum of Art and the Met Cloisters. Her interests include the reception and materiality of late medieval art, especially Flemish textiles and illuminated manuscripts. Recently, she was awarded a Baker-Nord Graduate Research Grant to present her paper, “Skinning the Saint: Saint Bartholomew’s Flayed Body and the Medieval Book,” at the 2023 Medieval Animals Heritage Conference in the UK. In addition to art, Laura loves biking, cooking, traveling, and spending quality time with her cats, Tangerine and Peach.

Portia Silver is a second-year MA Art History student and Barbato Fellow. She graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College in Art History with departmental honors. Her senior thesis focused on the late 19th-century artistic and humanitarian work of Boston-area female photographers. This past year, Portia led a gallery tour at the Keithley Symposium, served as a session chair for the Cleveland Symposium, and co-organized a community town hall on art and sustainability. For summer 2023, she was awarded an assistant head intern position for the US Pavilion exhibition, Everlasting Plastics, at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Portia’s interests lie in modern and contemporary art, focusing on decolonial, eco-critical, and gender theories. She enjoys yoga, reading, and playing the violin.

Rebekah Utian is a second-year Art History Master’s student and Barbato Fellow at Case Western Reserve University. She received a BA in Art History, Studio Art, and Italian at Kenyon College. Her current research interests focus on the relationship between memory, religious tourism, and the natural environment. More broadly, she is interested in histories of collecting and intercultural relationships within the context of global Early Modern studies. Her long-term aim is to advocate for and be a part of a more accessible and community-engaged practice of art history. Concurrently, she is pursuing CWRU’s Graduate Certificate in Public Humanities and Civic Engagement. Rebekah was recently awarded the Keithley Fellowship in Engaged Art History and the Eva L. Pancoast Memorial Fellowship.

Emma Zavodny is a second-year Art History and Museum Studies MA student and a Cleveland Museum of Art Fellow. She is interested in the art of the nineteenth century, specifically the Pre-Raphaelites, the repatriation and restitution of cultural property, and the role museums play in society. She received her BA in Art History and Anthropology from American University in 2022. While completing her undergraduate degree, she gained museum and collections experience through internships at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum and the archives of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. In her free time, she enjoys reading mystery novels and painting.