MARISA WILLIAMSON is an New York metro area-based multimedia artist. She has create 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.
Her 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. She was a participant in the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture in 2012 and the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program in 2014-2015.
She has taught at Pratt Institute, the Brooklyn Museum, and is currently teaching media art at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts.
My project as an artist is to explore and interpret through performance, new media, video, objects and images, the ways that soft technologies in conjunction with hard technologies, facilitate the rendering and surrendering of the physical and psychological body over time. My work interrogates the material and immaterial possibilities of inheritance, memory, storytelling, race, ethics and aesthetics, while mapping the past onto geographies of the present.
For the past few years I had been making work about and embodying Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson’s slave and mistress. She is a conjured ghost, 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 revolutionary, but speaks of the creativity, survival, endurance, and forced intimacy that constitute so much of everyday life, then and now.
The work is rooted in questions of authority, parafiction, freedom and its opposite(s), race, gender, labor, and love through an historical lens. It addresses these interests as they pertain to my life: a modern life existing as it does as a consequence of known and unknown literal and figurative ancestors.
The fourth wall: the imaginary threshold between the audience and the performance, between the work and the world, between the quiet anonymity of the onlooking crowd and the obstreperous vulnerability of the troublesome ‘other’, across which mystical mimetic relationships occur—is of ongoing interest. 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.