||This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. (October 2011)|
Martha Wilson (born 1947) is a Philadelphia feminist performance artist. She is the founding director of Franklin Furnace art organization. Over the past four decades she has developed and "created innovative photographic and video works that explore her female subjectivity through role-playing, costume transformation, and 'invasions' of other peoples personas". In the early 1970s while studying in Halifax in Nova Scotia, she began to make videos and photo/text performances. When she moved to New York City in 1974 she continued to develop and explore her photo/text and video performances. Due to this and her other works during her career she gained attention around America for her provocative  characters, costumes, works and performances. During 1976 she founded and became director of the Franklin Furnace Archive, which is an artist-run space that focuses on the exploration, advertisement and promotion of artists books, installation art, video and performance art. By promoting these certain areas of work, due to their content they challenge the established normality of performance, art work and books. Other aspects that are addressed through the promotion of the archive are the roles artists play within the visual arts organisations, and the expectations around what is acceptable in the art mediums.
- 1 Education and Career
- 2 Performance and Exhibition
- 3 Academic work
- 4 Books
- 5 Grants and Awards
- 6 Further reading
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Education and Career
After attending George School, a Quaker prep school in her hometown of Newtown, Pennsylvania, Wilson graduated cum laude with a B.A. from Wilmington College, a Quaker college in Ohio, in 1969. She then attended graduate school at Dalhousie University in 1971 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada before starting her work teaching at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in Halifax—then a hotbed of conceptual art. Wilson felt excluded from NSCAD’s conceptual art community, which was reluctant to take her seriously as a woman and as an artist with no previous credentials. Like most of the art that was being made, taught, and encouraged at NSCAD, Wilson first worked in language-based art. However, she soon focused on performance art—using her own body as her medium. This choice further distanced her from her conceptual artist peers, who denigrated performance work on principle, upholding “the Cartesian subservience of the body to the mind.” 
Martha created photographic self-portraits called “A Portfolio of Models,” where Wilson posed as many different gender types including: Goddess, Housewife, Lesbian and Professional. By working with role-playing and masquerade,“the process of self-objectification was paradoxically experienced as positive, for it cleared a space which could be filled by her own self-determined visibility and agentic subjectivity.” Wilson used make-up to create her transformation, when producing her made-up face for her performance where she herself became a space for transcending gender norms and showing what people classify and expect from different female gender types. In Wilson’s own words, “absence of self is the free space in which expression plays. Thus the ‘obstacle,’ the painted surface, is ironically the means of expression.”  In Wilson's early career, her work was mostly autobiographical being shown through her photography, performance and video. However, in recent years it has become much more less female subjectivity through her work in role-playing, transformations into different types of woman through costumes and the use of other people's personas. In 1976 she became a member of Disband who were an all female performance group/artists that developed feminist songs. Through this work with Disband she created and developed the character of Alexander M. Plague, Jr. This character along with many others both fictional and real were used over her career including one of her real characters Barbara Bush.
In 1974, Wilson moved to New York City, where she changed her loft in her own house into an artist-run performance and exhibit space, founding Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc. in 1976. Between 1976 and 1996 Franklin Furnace held many different exhibitions in its storefront space on Franklin street in Tribica situated in Lower Manhattan. The Archive presented historical and contemporary exhibitions of artists books along with some installation pieces/art to the public domain. Franklin Furnace has reinvented itself as a "virtual institution", where its main aim is to fund artists, focus on arts education and the online publishing of works that are not usually in the public's eye.
Disband an all female vocal performing artists group were based in New York City from 1978–1982 and were formed by Martha Wilson, IIona Granet, Donna Hennes, Ingrid Sischy and Dianne Torr. The band didn't see themselves are musicians, but instead they were a group of artists who performed using spoken word and noise, creating songs such as: "Every Girl", "Hey Baby", and "Fashions". The band's sound type was that of a capella, performing mostly at the store front space at Franklin Furnace. In 2008 the group reunited and performed at the P.S.1 contemporary arts centre, where they performed as part of 'WACK! Art and feminist revolution' which was an exhibition put together by The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The group became increasing popular with feminist woman, especially those of the art audience, who were like minded and understood the lyrics.
P•P•O•W was founded by Wendy Olsoff and Penny Pilkington in the first wave of the East-Village Art Scene in New York City in 1983. In 1988 the gallery moved to Soho and in 2002 moved to Chelsea. P•P•O•W maintains a diverse roster of national and international artists. Since its inception, the gallery has remained true to its early vision, showing contemporary work in all media. There is a commitment to representational painting and sculpture and artists who create work with social and political content. Wilson has worked closely with this gallery showing her works/events and exhibitions here since joining in May 2011. The works in the gallery are embedded with the ideas Martha has being concerned about for four decades. Wilson's new work "I have become my own worst fear" consists largely of photo/text image which will be shown with a videotape made by the artist in 1974. The works on view consist of nine new photo/text works created in 2008 along with two early works in her career, Alchemy, from 1973 and My Authentic Self from 1974.
Performance and Exhibition
Since the early 1970s, Wilson has performed and exhibited her work at various galleries and museums in New York City and elsewhere. In 1973, her “Breast Forms Permutated” was included in the “c. 7,500” exhibit of conceptual art made by women at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. In April of that year, she also performed “Selfportrait” at Project Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. More recently, she was part of the “Gloria: Another Look at Feminist Art in the 1970s” exhibit at White Columns in New York City in 2002 and DISBAND was included in the “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution” exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2007.
Martha Wilson’s signature performance work is political satire, impersonating First Ladies Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush and Second Lady Tipper Gore. In 2008 Martha Wilson had her first solo exhibit in New York, “Photo/Text Works, 1971-1974” at the Mitchell Algus Gallery in Chelsea, New York City. In a New York Times review of the show, Holland Cotter asserted that Martha Wilson is one of “the half-dozen most important people for art in downtown Manhattan in the 1970s.”
Staging the Self
From March until May 2009, an exhibition by Wilson and Peter Dykhuis for The Dalhousie Art Gallery provided a deeper meaning and understanding of the work that she has created through a number of still images and well constructed characters that surround the interpretations that one may have to a certain type of person. Wilson created photographic and video works that explored her female subjectivity through the extensive use of role playing, costume transformations and invasions of male and other female personas. This exhibition highlights the stages of Wilson’s creative contributions (with the use of Franklin Furnace as all were archived there) within the context of early feminist and socially engaged studio practice as well as her dissemination of the work of like-minded individuals through the endorsement of Franklin Furnace. Central to the exhibition is Wilson’s presence as an agent of transformative change, initially in her artwork and then her facilitation of cultural change through her Directorial presence at Franklin Furnace. Wilson’s selection of 30 projects from 30 years of programming at Franklin Furnace also becomes a self-portrait of sorts as she highlights works that are historically significant for pushing boundaries within exhibition and display culture as well as society at large. Exhibition traveling through 2013 under the auspices of Independent Curators International.
Selected Performances & Exhibitions
- Captivating a man
- Posturing: Drag
- Posturing: Age transformations
- Posturing: Male impersonator, Butch
- Breast forms permutated
- Transformance: Claudia
- I make up the image of my perfection/ I make up the image of my deformity
- A portfolio of Models: The Goddess, The Housewife, The Working girl, The Professional, The Earth Mother, The Lesbian
- Franklin Furnace founded
- Just Say No to Arms Control
- Barbara Bush on Abuse
- Tipper Gore: Advice for the 90's
- Gloria: Another look at Feminist Art in the 1970s
- Personal & Political
- How American Women Artists invented Post-Modernism
- The Downtown Show
- WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution
- Martha Wilson: Photo/text works, 1971–74
- Looking back: The White Columns Annual
- 40 Years 40 Projects
- Martha Wilson: Staging the Self
- The Man I Wish I Was
- Donna: Avangurdia Feminista Negli Anni '70
- Solo exhibitions 
Wilson's works are mainly involved with image, not the image from the piece she has created but instead the image that is created surrounding a topic/subject. An example is her work from 1974, "a portfolio of models", in which she creates a series of models through the understanding that one's self has itself the topic in question. The Housewife, The Goddess, The Working Girl, The Professional, The Earth Mother and The Lesbian are examples of Wilson's. This series of images are based upon ones stereotypical view of the subject matter. There are many works of Wilson consisting of both image, body and video show casing characters she has created to connect with many other realities, find below a list of her work.
- Premiere: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1972
- Routine performance: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1972
- Art sucks: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1972
- Appearance as value: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1972
- Cauterisation: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1974
- Deformation: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1974
- Martha Wilson as Nancy Reagan: For Oracle, performance series at Exit Art, New York, 1985
- Martha Wilson as Nancy Reagan "Nancy Reagan beats Cancer": Sideshows by the Seashore, Coney Island, July 13, 1986
- Martha Wilson as Nancy Reagan "Nancy Reagan director": Atomic Gospel Hour, New York City, April 12, 1987
- Martha Wilson as Barbara Bush: Upstream Arts, Staten Island C.T.V, March 11, 1991
- Martha Wilson as Tipper Gore "Beauty and the Beast: The Weight Thing": Tacoma, WA, April 16, 1994
- Martha Wilson as Tipper Gore "Body Politic: Mental Health": Cooper Union, N.Y.C, February 15, 1994
- Martha Wilson as Barbara Bush "Separated at Birth" : New York, NY 2003 
- Martha Wilson: Staging the Self (Transformations, Invasions and Pushing Boundaries)September 17, 2011 at the Book Launch & Artist Talk Brooklyn Museum.
- Martha Wilson New York Studio Event on March 30, 2011.
- Martha Wilson offers her perspective on feminist research on February 19, 2011 at the Art Gallery Concordia University.
- Performance and Identity, January 20, 2011 at the Leonard & Bina Ellen at the Art Gallery Concordia University.
- Tour of the exhibition with artist Martha Wilson and curator Peter DykhuisJanuary 19, 2011 at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery Concordia University.
Wilson has lectured widely on the book as an art form, performance art, and "variable media art," at New York University, The School of Visual Arts, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and elsewhere. In 1997 Wilson served as a Guest Editor at Art Journal, for which she wrote an article on the origin of performance art. Between 2003 and 2006, she served as Guest Editor of Leonardo magazine, for which she wrote an article on live art on the internet. Wilson has received numerous grants for her performance art, such as two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. She has also received praise for her support of freedom of expression, including an Obie Award for commitment to artists’ freedom of expression.
As Franklin Furnace Archive’s Founding Director, Martha Wilson is an important proponent of contemporary variable media. Franklin Furnace was once the largest collection of artist books in the United States and remains an important historical establishment for the still largely ignored artist book medium. Franklin Furnace Archive continues to support the contemporary avant-garde through funds awarded to under-represented artists creating contemporary work. Though the non-profit organization and its archive may be Martha Wilson’s most prominent contribution to the arts in New York, her early artwork holds an important place in the history of feminist, performance, and conceptual art.
- Martha Wilson Sourcebook: 40 Years of Reconsidering Feminism, Performance, Alternative Spaces, by Kate Fowle, Martha Wilson and Professor Moira Roth. 2011. An anthology of writings from 18th century in literature to current texts, was published by Independent Curators International. The Sourcebook is a collection of primary research material consisting of rare archival documents and excerpts of landmark publications that influenced Wilson, such as Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Susan Sontag’s On Photography.
- Franklin Furnace and the Spirit of the Avant Garde: A History of the Future. By Toni Sant. 2011 
- Martha Wilson: Staging the self. By Peter Dykhuis and Jayne Wark. 2011 
- Artist Martha Wilson at P.P.O.W., New York: Aging gracefully, with political consciousness, "beauty" and sass, September 10, 2011, by Edward M. Gómez 
- Interview with Martha Wilson, co-Founder of Franklin Furnace Archive, November 8, 2010, by Claudine Ise 
- "Going Virtual," by Martha Wilson 
- "The Personal Becomes Political in Time," by Martha Wilson 
- "Martha Wilson: Not Taking It at Face Value," by Jayne Wark 
A Long Conversation with Martha Wilson, by Toni Sant, page 33 - 82.
Grants and Awards
- New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, Performance Art.
- Citation by Robert S. Clark, Nathan Cummings, Joyce Mertz-Gilmore, Rockefeller and Andy Warhol Foundations for commitment to the principle of freedom of expression.
- Bessie Award for commitment to artists' freedom of expression.
- Obie Award for commitment to artists' freedom of expression.
- Skowhegan School Governor's Award for Service to the Arts.
- National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Performance Art.
- Edgar, Anne. "A Conversation with Franklin Furnace." Afterimage 13, no. 1-2 (Summer, 1985): 28-30.
- Wilson, Martha. "The Personal Becomes Political in Time." N.Paradoxa no. 5 (2000): 83-90.
- What Franklin Furnace Learned from Presenting and Producing Live Art on the Internet, from 1996 to Now. Leonardo 38, no. 3 (2005): 193-200
- Wark, Jayne, "Martha Wilson: Not Taking It at Face Value," Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture and Media Studies. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
- Reckitt, Helena and Peggy Phelan. Art and Feminism: Themes and Movements. London: Phaidon Press.
- Cotter, Holland.& Rosenberg, Karen, Art in Review, Photo/Text Works, 1971-74. New York Times, April 4, 2008. Retrieved August 2011
- Martha Wilson, Official website. Retrieved August 2011
- Wark, Jayne. Martha Wilson: Not Taking It at Face Value. Retrieved August 2011
- http://www.moca.org/wack/?p=251. Retrieved October 2011
- http://www.ppowgallery.com/about.php. Retrieved October 2011
- http://www.moca.org/wack/. Retrieved October 2011
- http://www.marthawilson.com/videos.php. Retrieved October 2011
- Sant. T: Franklin Furnace and the Spirit of Avant Garde: A History of the Future. Page 29. Intellect. Bristol. 2011. Retrieved October 2011.
- Sant. T: Franklin Furnace and the Spirit of Avant Garde: A History of the Future. Page 29. Intellect. Bristol. 2011. Retrieved October 2011.
- http://www.canadianart.ca/online/see-it/2009/05/07/martha-wilson/. Retrieved October 2011
- http://www.marthawilson.com/mwresume.pdf. Martha Wilson. Retrieved October 2011
- http://www.ppowgallery.com/selected_work.php?artist=35. Retrieved October 2011
- http://curatorsintl.org/events/martha_wilson_staging_the_self_transformations_invasions_and_pushing_b. Retrieved October 2011.
- http://curatorsintl.org/events/martha_wilson. Retrieved October 2011
- http://curatorsintl.org/events/martha_wilson_offers_her_perspective_on_feminist_research. Retrieved October 2011
- http://curatorsintl.org/events/performance_and_identity. Retrieved October 2011
- http://curatorsintl.org/exhibitions/martha_wilson1. Retrieved October 2011
- http://curatorsintl.org/shop/new_martha_wilson_sourcebook_40_years_of_reconsidering_feminism_perfor. Retrieved October 2011
- http://www.abcartbookscanada.com/eight.html. Retrieved October 2011
- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/g-roger-denson/women-old-crazy-and-hyste_b_995484.html. G. Roger Denson. Retrieved October 2011
- http://www.marthawilson.com/articles.php. Retrieved October 2011
- http://bombsite.com/issues/1000/articles/6130. Retrieved October 2011
- http://www.edwardmgomez.com/. Edward M Gomez. Retrieved October 2011.
- http://vagueterrain.net/content/2011/03/martha-wilson-speaks-free-zones. Retrieved October 2011.
- http://badatsports.com/2010/interview-with-martha-wilson-co-founder-of-franklin-furnace-archive/. Retrieved October 2011
- http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-13976348/Kaitlin-Till-Landry-interviews-Martha.html. Retrieved October 2011
- http://www.marthawilson.com/articles.php?article=going_virtual. Martha Wilson. Retrieved October 2011
- http://www.marthawilson.com/articles/wilson_not_taking_it_at_face_value.pdf. Jane Wark. Retrieved October 2011
- http://www.marthawilson.com/mwresume.pdf. Retrieved October 2011.
- http://lib.stanford.edu/women-art-revolution/bio-martha-wilson. Retrieved October 2011.