Martha Wilson

Interview with Martha Wilson, 2006 May 12 and 2008 February 15
Interview with Martha Wilson, 2006 May 12 and 2008 February 15

Martha Wilson (b. 1947) is an artist and the founding director of Franklin Furnace, an exhibition space she established in her TriBeCa storefront loft in lower Manhattan in 1976. In 1997, Franklin Furnace shifted into a virtual space, its archives and programs becoming represented primarily online. Its mission is to present and preserve such ephemeral media as artists’ books and multiples, temporary installations, and performance art, and to support the work of artists in the early stages of their careers. In recent years, Franklin Furnace has hosted, both physically and virtually, work which has attracted attention from conservative bodies protesting against the use of public monies for artistic production.

Wilson’s own work in photography, performance, and video art—initially highly autobiographical; in recent years much less so—explores female subjectivity through role-playing, costume transformations, and “invasions” of other people’s personas. She was also a member of DISBAND, an all-female performance group; it is in this context that she developed the character of Alexander M. Plague, Jr., one of several personas (both fictional and real; including that of Barbara Bush) that she has adopted over the years.

Martha Wilson, Male Impersonator (1973). Photo by Richard Jarden. Copyright Martha Wilson.

Further Reading

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.