John Beardsley is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Director of Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard’s research institution in the humanities in Washington, D.C.
Trained as an art historian, with an AB from Harvard and a PhD from the University of Virginia, he is the author of numerous books on contemporary art and design, including Earthworks and Beyond: Contemporary Art in the Landscape (fourth edition, 2006) and Gardens of Revelation: Environments by Visionary Artists (1995), as well as many titles on recent landscape architecture.
He has organized exhibitions for numerous museums, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, including “Black Folk Art in America” (Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1982) and “Hispanic Art in the United States” (MFAH, 1987). In 1997, he was curator of the visual arts project, “Human Nature: Art and Landscape in Charleston and the Low Country,” for the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in Charleston. More recently, he has been working on a series of exhibitions and publications on southern African American folk and vernacular art, including “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend” (2002) for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the recent work of the self-taught painter and sculptor Thornton Dial (MFAH, 2005). In 2008, he co-organized the GSD exhibition “Dirty Work: Transforming the Landscape of Nonformal Cities in the Americas,” which examined efforts to improve environmental conditions in low-income communities.
At Dumbarton Oaks, Beardsley oversees a fellowship program, a lecture series, an annual symposium, a publications program, summer internships for landscape architecture students, and a series of installations of contemporary art in the institution’s historic gardens. Recent publications include Landscapebodydwelling: Charles Simonds at Dumbarton Oaks and the forthcoming proceedings of the 2010 symposium, “Designing Wildlife Habitats.” He is at work on the next symposium, on cultural landscapes in sub-Saharan Africa. At the GSD, Beardsley teaches courses in landscape architectural history, theory, research, and writing.