Martha Wilson & Franklin Furnace

November 12, 2016 - December 18, 2016


Martha Wilson & Franklin Furnace

American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center

Saturday, November 12, 2016 – Sunday, December 18, 2016

Gallery Talk with Martha Wilson and Co-Curators Victoria Reis and Tim Doud: Thursday, November 10, 6:30 - 7:30 
American University Katzen Arts Center, Room 201

Opening Reception: Saturday, November 12, 6-8pm 

Transformer is proud to present Martha Wilson & Franklin Furnace, the 4th exhibition in our four-part Do You Know Where Your Art Comes From? series. 

Martha Wilson is a pioneering feminist artist and gallery director who, over the past four decades, has created innovative photographic and video works that explore her female subjectivity through role-playing, costume transformations and invasions of male and female personas.  She began making videos and photo/text works in the early 1970s when she was working toward a Ph.D. in English at Dalhousie University and teaching English at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design where, in a male-dominated Conceptualist milieu, her work was not taken very seriously.

Wilson further developed her performative and video-based practice after moving in 1974 to New York City. Two years later she founded Franklin Furnace, an artist-run center in Tribeca dedicated to the exploration and promotion of artists’ books, site-specific installation art, video and performance art; and after Franklin Furnace “went virtual” during its 20th anniversary season, works which engaged the Internet as an art venue and medium.

This exhibition presents two interwoven layers of Wilson’s career, throughout which she has been a force of transformative change, considered both within the context of early feminist and socially engaged studio practice and in her role as a disseminator of like-minded individuals’ work.  A selection of Wilson’s early solo photographic works from her years in Halifax, a transitional period in her life, shows her innovations in playing with different age, gender and social identities.  In New York in the mid-1970s she continued to be active as a performance artist in collaboration with other feminist artists in the all-girl, conceptual art punk band, DISBAND (1978 – 82) and then in solo performances in which she ‘invaded’ the personas of political figures such as Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush and Tipper Gore.  The complementary side of Wilson’s career is represented in the exhibition by her selection of projects by artists and exhibitions--one project from each of Franklin Furnace’s forty years of programming, from 1976 through 2016—which add up to a self-portrait of sorts.  The projects Wilson has chosen are historically significant for pushing the boundaries of exhibition and display practice and for disrupting cultural expectations about art, politics, gender, and race.

Works from Martha Wilson & Franklin Furnance were initially curated by Peter Dykhuis for the traveling exhibition Martha Wilson organized by Independent Curators International (ICI). Additional biographical information on Martha Wilson can be found at

Martha Wilson & Franklin Furnace is the 4th exhibition in Transformer’s four-part Do You Know Where Your Art Comes From? series, presented over two years at the American University Museum and the Rotunda of the Katzen Arts Center. Do You Know Where Your Art Comes From? is curated by Victoria Reis, Executive & Artistic Director of Transformer, in collaboration with Tim Doud, Associate Professor of Art and coordinator of the Visiting Artist Program at American University. Highlighting various contemporary platforms, artists, and arts organizations, Do You Know Where Your Art Comes From? investigates current and future models of art organizing.

The three previous exhibitions in Do You Know Where Your Art Comes From? include: Locally Sourced (Jan 24 – March 15, 2015), Exploring Social Practice (Sept 24 – Oct 22, 2015), and Southern Constellations (April 2 – May 29, 2016).  Do You Know Where Your Art Comes From? is inspired by Common Field, a new national arts network of arts organizer, artist projects, and non-profit and independent art spaces. Transformer & Franklin Furnace are Founding Members of Common Field.

Image Credit: Martha Wilson, Martha Wilson as Barbara Bush (Still from video by Yvonne Brooks), 1991