Lee Ann Custer

Dr. Lee Ann Custer, she/her(s), is an art historian who specializes in the art, architecture, and urbanism of the United States. Her concerns as a scholar and a teacher focus on the ways in which images mediate ideas of place and space in order to ask whose experiences they fortify and whose they omit.

Lee Ann is currently a 2022–25 NEH Collaborative Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow at Vanderbilt University.

Her work has been supported by the Smithsonian, the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Luce Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale, and the New York Public Library, among others. Her wide-ranging interests have also taken her to Brazil as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts to study the presence of the colonial vernacular in Brazilian modern architecture. She received her PhD and MA in history of art from the University of Pennsylvania, and her BA in history of art and architecture from Harvard University.

She has taught at the University of Arizona, Georgetown University, and the University of Pennsylvania.


Lee Ann’s current research focuses on the socio-spatial politics of urban air and its depiction in New York City from 1880 to 1940. A second project considers the pedagogy and photography of the architect and city planner Denise Scott Brown in the mid-twentieth century.

Previous publications include “Teaching Complexity and Contradiction at the University of Pennsylvania, 1961–1965,” in Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction at Fifty, edited by David B. Brownlee and Martino Stierli (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2019). Lee Ann also co-organized the accompanying exhibition, “Back Matter: The Making of Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction” at the University of Pennsylvania’s Architectural Archives in 2016–17.