Northern Illinois University

School of Art

Jeff Karl Kowalski

Ph.D., Yale University

Professor, Art History
Mesoamerican Art and Architecture

Office: Art Building 201G
Phone: (815) 753-7877

Jeff Karl Kowalski

Professor Jeff Karl Kowalski has worked in the School of Art, Northern Illinois University, since 1982. He served as Head of the Art History Division from 1996 to 2004. Prior to coming to NIU, he was in the Department of Art History, Temple University-Tyler School of Art.

He attended Grinnell College, Iowa for two years and then obtained a B.A. in Art History from Columbia University, New York. He completed his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Art History at Yale University, where he specialized in the art and architecture of Pre-Columbian America.

His book on northern Maya archaeology and architecture, The House of the Governor, A Maya Palace at Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico, was published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1987.

He is also editor and major contributor to the book Mesoamerican Architecture as a Cultural Symbol, published by Oxford University Press in 1999. Along with Professor Cynthia Kristan-Graham, he also is co-editor and a contributor to the book manuscript Twin Tollans: Chichén Itzá, Tula, and the Epiclassic to Early Postclassic Mesoamerican World, solicited by and submitted for publication to Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections, Washington, D.C. He is currently writing a comprehensive survey of the art and architecture of Mesoamerica and the Central Andean Region.

In addition to his various books, Professor Kowalski has published numerous articles and book reviews on the archaeology, art, and epigraphy of the Maya and their Mesoamerican neighbors in journals such as Ancient Mesoamerica, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Expedition, Archaeology, and Science, as well as in various Palenque Round Table Conference volumes.

For many years, he has worked in the northern Maya region, and specifically at the majestic site of Uxmal, the seat of a Maya regional capital during the Terminal Classic period (c. A.D. 800-950). His articles on Uxmal and northern Maya art and archaeology include “The Puuc as seen from Uxmal,” in Hidden among the Hills: Maya Archaeology of the Northwest Yucatan Peninsula. Acta Mesoamericana 7, edited by Hanns J. Prem, pp. 93-120. Ibero-Amerikanischen Institut, Berlin, 1994; “Archaeological Excavations of a Round Temple at Uxmal: Summary Discussion and Implications for Northern Maya Culture History,” In Eighth Palenque Round Table, 1993, Vol. X, Merle Greene Robertson (general editor), Martha Macri and Jan McHargue (volume editors): 281-296, The Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute, San Franscisco, 1993 (principal author, with Alfredo Barrera Rubio, Heber Ojeda Más, and José Huchim Herrera as second authors); and “The Architecture of Uxmal: The Symbolics of Statemaking at a Puuc Maya Regional Capital,” in Mesoamerican Architecture as a Cultural Symbol, edited by Jeff Kowalski, pp. 274-297, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 1993 (principal author, with Nicholas P. Dunning as second author)

Some of Professor Kowalski’s most recent published articles include, “Seats of Power and Cycles of Creation: Continuitites and Changes in Iconography and Political Organization at Dzibilchaltún, Uxmal, Chichén Itzá, and Mayapán,” in Estudios de Cultura Maya XXII: 87-111, 2002 (as principal author, with Rhonda Silverstein and Mya Follansbee as junior authors); “Evidence for the Functions and Meanings of Some Northern Maya Palaces,”in Maya Palaces and Elite Residences: An Interdisciplinary Approach, edited by Jessica Joyce Christie, pp. 204-252, University of Texas Press, Austin, 2003; and “Politics, Territory, Trade and Power in Terminal Classic Northern Yucatan. in The Terminal Classic in the Maya Lowlands: Collapse,Transition, and Transformation, edited by Arthur A. Demarest, Prudence M. Rice, and Don S. Rice. University Press of Colorado, Boulder, 2004 (as a junior author with Professors Kelli Carmean and Nicholas P. Dunning). He has also published several articles or book chapters on the Mesoamerican ritual ballgame, including “Astral Deities and Agricultural Fertility: Fundamental Themes in Mesoamerican Ballgame Symbolism at Copan, Chichen Itza, and Tenochtitlan,” in Symbolism in the Plastic and Pictorial Representations of Ancient Mexico, edited by Jacqueline de Durand-Forest and Marc Eisinger, pp. 49-71. Bonner Amerikanistische Studien 21. Holos Verlag, Bonn, 1993. In addition, he has completed and submitted a final report on the excavations of a round structure at Uxmal, a project funded by the National Geographic Society that he co-directed in 1992 with Alfredo Barrera Rubio, the Director of the Centro Regional de Yucatan, INAH.

Professor Kowalski teaches both undergraduate introduction to art courses, as well as various survey and upper level undergraduate and graduate courses in Art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, all of which stress the importance of understanding the aesthetic artifacts of these societies as expressions of their cultural beliefs, practices, worldviews and ideologies. These courses include a general survey of the art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, a survey of Pre-Columbian Art (Mesoamerican and Central Andean), a survey of African Art, and changing specialized topics and seminar courses devoted to Mesoamerican Art or to Art and Architecture of the ancient Maya.