Skip to main content

Leda Cempellin

Leda Cempellin


Associate Academic Director/Professor

Office Building

The Barn



Mailing Address

The Barn 116
School of Design-Box 2225
University Station
Brookings, SD 57007


Dr. Leda Cempellin holds a Laurea in Lettere Moderne from the University of Padua, Italy (1999) and earned her Research Doctorate (Ph.D) in art history at the University of Parma, Italy (2004). In fall 1998, she was an exchange student at the University of California Santa Barbara. Dr. Cempellin lives and works in the United States since 2005 and is currently a tenured full professor at the School of Design.

Dr. Cempellin started publishing during her undergraduate years; later on, at South Dakota State University, she has pushed several undergraduate student projects for awards, presentations and publications. Her extensive Laurea (master’s thesis) produced two books, both published by the CLEUP Cooperative Libraria Editrice Universita’ di Padova (University of Padua Press): Conversazioni con Don Eddy - Conversations with Don Eddy (2000) and L’Iperrealismo ‘fotografico’ americano in pittura. Risonanze storiche nella East e nella West Coast (2004). In the foreword to the latter, Dr. Whitney Chadwick highlighted how this book approached Photorealism from the context of “modernism’s emphasis on formal, minimalist and conceptual approaches to the object” (Chadwick 9-10). While in Italy, she also published the monograph titled Leigh Behnke: Real Spaces, Imagined Lives with an interview by Jeri Hise, also by CLEUP (2005).

Dr. Cempellin’s Research Doctorate dissertation (completed 2003, defended 2004), an interdisciplinary study, reconstructed a cross-section of the cultural climate in Germany that explains the controversial reception of American Photorealism at Documenta 5. This poststructuralist narrative weaved elements of cultural history with the various and sometimes discordant voices of the curators, some of the artists, and the press. The work included extensive research at the Documenta Archiv; Harald Szeemann and Jean-Christophe Ammann were interviewed as well.

Over the years, Dr. Cempellin has been building solid interdisciplinary skills, culminating in the publication of the monograph titled The Ideas, Identity and Art of Daniel Spoerri: Contingencies and Encounters of an ‘Artistic Animator’ by Vernon Press (2017), the first US monograph on this foremost European artist published in the United States. The background research for this monograph included several visits to the Spoerri Archives at the Prints and Drawings Department, Swiss National Library in Bern. In his book review for the vol.25.1 issue of Modernism/Modernity in 2018, Dr. Roger Rothman stated that “Cempellin’s book is cleverly structured. Rather than frame Spoerri’s career within the confines of his renowned tableaux-pièges, the book focuses its attention on the artist’s insistently collaborative process (…). The challenge, then, is how to properly track the career of an artist for whom the work of others is inextricably woven into its fabric. Cempellin takes on the challenge by providing details not only of Spoerri’s work, but of the many artists and writers with whom he collaborated” (202-203). In 2020, she was awarded the Outstanding Research in the Humanities Award of the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, South Dakota State University.

Besides her scholarly work in late modernism, Dr. Cempellin has been one of the pioneers of SoTL in art history, contributing to a few interdisciplinary journals since 2011 and then contributing to the inaugural issue of AHPP (Art History Pedagogy and Practice, first SoTL journal for art history) in 2016 and to the special issue on SoTL-AH in 2020. Dr. Cempellin teaches lower- and upper-division art history courses. She has received recognition by several Honors students for her contribution to their educational experiences.

She has been serving the College Art Association’s governance since 2013, serving as member of the Education Committee, then as member of the Museum Committee, as the Chair of the Museum Committee, and currently as member of the Committee on Research and Scholarship. Since fall 2015, she serves as the Coordinator of the Museum Studies minor, a program in five concentrations hosted by the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences and supported by the South Dakota Art Museum, the South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum, the South Dakota State University Archives & Special Collections at Hilton M. Briggs Library, the McCrory Gardens, and the Children’s Museum of South Dakota.

Dr. Cempellin highly values teaching, researching (especially in archives), using her interdisciplinary skills to collaborate with professionals from diverse backgrounds: she enjoys seeing people and projects thrive.



Visit my Selected Works page