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Martha Wilson: Staging the Self

Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax Mar 20 to May 10 2009
Martha Wilson  <I>I make up the image of my perfection / I make up the image of my deformity</I> 1974 Martha Wilson I make up the image of my perfection / I make up the image of my deformity 1974

Martha Wilson <I>I make up the image of my perfection / I make up the image of my deformity</I> 1974

New York artist Martha Wilson got her start back in the conceptualist heyday of 1970s Halifax. But that heyday wasn’t Wilson’s to enjoy; her self-portraits exploring gender and feminism were at odds with the male-dominated ethos of the era.

Now, more than 30 years later, Dalhousie Art Gallery curator Peter Dykhuis has invited Wilson to return to Halifax with an exhibition that documents her life and work since those early days. The first part of the exhibition focuses on Wilson’s pointed self-portraits, while the second part looks at Wilson’s work in New York in the 1980s, including her impersonations of First Ladies.

The third and final component of the show explores Wilson’s work through the lens of Franklin Furnace, the artist-run centre she helped found and direct. This latter part of the exhibition includes works by Jenny Holzer, Shirin Neshat, Ana Mendieta and other then-unknown, now-famed artists.

Though most life trajectories are difficult to encapsulate, Wilson’s art and work seems to acknowledge that the experience of any one individual can morph into and connect with many other realities. And it’s this, perhaps, that remains her lifelong, signature strength. (6101 University Ave, Halifax NS)

This article was first published online on May 7, 2009.

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