UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 08 Summer 18 Library
Marisa Williamson
Studio Art

Ruffin Distinguished Artist in Residence: Marisa Williamson

I want to make history alive in the present...
marisa williamson

The McIntire Department of Art announced renowned multimedia artist Marisa Williamson as its latest Ruffin Distinguished Artist in Residence. The New York metro area-based Williamson has created site-specific works at and in collaboration with Mural Arts Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Storm King Art Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Williamson’s videos, performances, and objects are exhibited regularly in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. She received her B.A. from Harvard University and her M.F.A. from CalArts, and was a participant in the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture in 2012 and the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program in 2014-2015. Williamson has taught at Pratt Institute, and the Brooklyn Museum, and is currently teaching media art at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts. Funded by a significant endowment from the Peter B. and Adeline W. Ruffin Foundation, the Ruffin Distinguished Artist-in-Residence is an annual position designed to bring artists of international stature to the University of Virginia’s Studio Art program, housed in Ruffin Hall. As Ruffin Distinguished Artist-in-Residence, Ms. Williamson worked with students in a variety of courses and was in residence through the spring 2018 academic semester. Her residency included a public lecture in February and an exhibition in the Ruffin Gallery, with both opening and closing performances. For the past few years, Williamson has been creating work about Jefferson slave and mistress Sally Hemings. “She is a conjured ghost,” she writes in her artist’s statement, “meant to unsettle and refuse easy interpretation. Through the work, I was exploring contemporary questions of intimate antagonism, racial and gendered identity crises and politics. Her story is not that of a runaway or a revolutionary, but speaks of the creativity, survival, endurance, and forced intimacy that constitute so much of everyday life, then and now.” She is fascinated by the fourth wall, or as she calls it, the “imaginary threshold between the audience and the performance.” She explains it by saying, “I want to make history alive in the present, focusing attention on the material consequences of the past through the use of my body and other tools. The work works on me as I hope it works on viewers, providing insight not only into how history is understood, but how it is felt.”

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