Rachel Nelson, PhD, is Director of UC Santa Cruz Institute of the Arts and Sciences (IAS), and teaches in the History of Art and Visual Culture department. Nelson has curated and organized exhibitions including Barring Freedom, a group exhibition engaging art, prisons, and justice; Carlos Motta: We The Enemy; Futurefarmers: Fog Inquiry; jackie sumell: Solitary Garden; Newton Harrison and Helen Mayer Harrison: Future Garden, and other projects with artists including Ursula Biemann and Paulo Tavares, Angela Melitopoulos and Angela Anderson, Harrell Fletcher, and Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. She has organized major conferences and speaking series including Visualizing Abolition with Gina Dent and Bodies at the Borders with Carlos Motta, among others. Nelson has collaborated on exhibitions and programming with institutions including SFMOMA; San José Museum of Art; San José Institute of Contemporary Art; and Minnesota Street Project, San Francisco.
Nelson writes and publishes extensively on contemporary art and geopolitics. She is currently working on a monograph, Seeing in Whiteout, focusing on the strategies contemporary artists use to reveal and disturb the racialized histories and presents of prisons and policing in the United States. Recent publications include "In Perpetual Conflict" in Under the Skin: Feminist Art and Art Histories from the Middle East and North Africa Today, Oxford University Press, 2020, as well as exhibition catalogue essays, journal articles, and reviews, including in Brooklyn Rail, NKA, Third Text, Savvy, and African Arts.