UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 15 Winter 21 Library
Marisa Williamson as The Ghost of Thomas Jefferson Image by Gaby Fuller & Liza Pittard
Studio Art

Important & Exciting Hires in Studio Art!

The Fall semester saw an exciting addition to the Department of Art faculty when it welcomed Marisa Williamson as Assistant Professor of Visual Art with a research focus on Blackness. 

Williamson is a project-based artist who works in video, image-making, installation, and performance around themes of history, race, feminism, and technology. She has produced site-specific works at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (2013), Storm King Arts Center (2016), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2016), the University of Virginia (2018), and Spaces Cleveland (2019). She has also performed commissioned works from Monument Lab Philadelphia (2017) and the National Park Service.

Williamson’s most noted work to date has come through her powerful exploration of Sally Hemings, around whom she has created silent performance pieces, small plays, interactive walking tours among historic landscapes, films, photographic collections, and more. In her 2018 piece The Ghost of Thomas Jefferson, Williamson portrayed Jefferson as a statue come to life, wandering through the architecture and landmarks for which he is most known. The project resulted in a book of photographic postcards. 

Marisa Williamson has been awarded grants from the Graham Foundation, Rema Hort Mann Foundation, and the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. She has had residencies at Triangle Arts Association, the Shandaken Project, and ACRE. She was a participant in the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture in 2012 and the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program in 2014 & 2015. Williamson holds a BA from Harvard University and an MFA from CalArts. 

She is part of the first cohort of faculty to be hired through a new faculty hiring initiative in the College of Arts & Sciences devoted to Race, Justice, and Equity. This initiative builds on a broad range of recent commitments, including an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded project to hire 10 Tenure/Tenure Track faculty working on the Global South; an expansion and University endowment commitment to the Carter Woodson Institute and Department of African and African-American Studies; the establishment of the Dean’s Doctoral Fellowships to enhance recruitment of underrepresented graduate students; and a parallel new project in collaboration with the Mellon Foundation to appoint 30 Race, Justice, and Equity Postdoctoral and Arts Fellows across the University.

Williamson performed her Jefferson piece at Monticello while she was UVA’s 2018 Ruffin Distinguished Artist in Residence. This year the Department of Art is proud to have Australian artist and educator Calista Lyon in that role. Calista is also serving as an Assistant Professor of New Media this year. In response to ecological collapse, Lyon uses a research-based practice to share ideas of ecology, community, and interdependence. Using the image as a material anchor for memory, she investigates representations of presence and absence through the interconnections of power, history, and knowledge. Most recently, she has been sharing a story about the historical and contemporary structures of settler power affecting a local endangered orchid in Australia. 

The Unknown and the Unnamed
expanded cinema
performance, 2 hrs 15 mins

Part of a multi-year project this research began with an Australian orchid collection created by self-described "recluse" and amateur botanist, Phillip Branwhite, who lived in my family’s farming community in Tallangatta Valley, Australia. The Unknown and the Unnamed reckons with the ongoing violence of settler colonialism via the endangered Crimson Spider Orchid (Caladenia concolor). This work weaves local knowledge and scientific concepts through personal story for a general audience. Working to subvert dominant narratives of human individualism the performance offers a way to understand ourselves as interconnected beings—prompting a relearning of the ecological toward more just forms of living.

Performers: Mary Jane Ward, Molly Rideout, Amery Kessler, Bryan Ortiz, Tui Lyon, Lucas Dabel, Jameel Paulin, Corey Girard, Melinda Wong, M’Kayla Murdaugh, and Anne Kickert.

Projected image credits: Tobias Hayashi

Another exciting addition this year comes in Studio Art, where Jackson Taylor has joined the faculty and is teaching in the Printmaking concentration. Taylor’s printmaking and drawing works offer a record of warped pastoral landscapes, snapshots of decay, and precarious situations that examine the still-dissolving rose-colored vignette that continues to shroud the American South. Layering together sequences of disjunctive photographic references, the work surveys instances of nefarious nature, where religious extremism and exasperated cultures highlight the fragility and degradation of man.

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