AnAmericanIcon: Making President Barack Obama

Dissertation Summary

In November of 2008, a black man was elected President of the United States ofAmerica. This was a remarkable accomplishment considering the strong history of racial classification, domination, and institutional violence that has characterized the U.S. throughout its history. In order for citizens of the nation to believe that a black man was suited to serve in the highest office in the land, something different from previous presidential campaigns had to occur. Visual images were instrumental in making Obama’s election possible through the construction of a public image. This project asks questions about the multiple institutions, individuals, technologies, and images that contributed to the construction of the iconic figure of Obama. In examining images created and circulated during the campaign, this project traces the process by which presidential candidate Obama became aniconin U.S. politics and culture.


M. Liz Andrews is an artist, curator and Ph.D. candidate in Cultural Studies at George Mason University. Her academic work focuses on art, media, politics, and struggles for representation. She received her Master’s degree in Arts Politics from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and her Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies from Wesleyan University. In 2009, she founded, an art and politics project presenting “Letters” to the 44th president through art. She has curated the monthly online publication at for seven years and directed live events in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chicago.