Using a vintage American quilt about 7 by 5 feet as her canvas, Wilson created the first of her many paintings on quilts, a series that she occasionally continues to this day, in her 86th year. These works were acclaimed while she was a Coenties Slip artist, with friends and neighbors from Ellsworth Kelly and Agnes Martin to Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.
One could well imagine that with such a recognized artistic achievement, Wilson might simply have continued developing in the same direction and permutations of it, and that it would have been enough to generate a lifetime of gallery shows and a gradually increasingly distinguished place in the art establishment.
But there was another impulse, the absolute freedom of the artist to continually recreate herself, that led Wilson to direct her energies into the areas of installation and performance art. She participated in an early work of Carolee Schneemann, “Meat Joy” (New York, 1964), and contributed to the installation work of Paul Thek in Europe–“Pyramid / A Work in Progress” (Stockholm, 1971), “Painting and Architectural Environment” (Paris, 1972), “Ark, Pyramid” (Kassel, 1972, and Lucerne, 1973) – and then the performance art of Robert Wilson – “Deafman Glance” (Iowa City, New York, Nancy, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, 1970-71), “Ka Mountain and Guardenia Terrace” (Shiraz, Iran, 1972), and “The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin” (Copenhagen, New York, Sao Paulo, 1973).
These activities reached fulfillment in her own major installation and performance works – “Electric Affinities” (Philadelphia, 1975; New York 1976), “Butler's Lives of the Saints” (New York, 1977-78), and Projekt Faust” (New York 1981).
Throughout this period of downtown “operas” and with more available energy in the years since, Wilson continued working in performance and visual art, sharing her stage with faculty and students at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and creating exhibitions in New York galleries, abstracting the forms of knots, boats, leaves, and Japanese screens. The mother and grandmother of twins, she also painted works based on the stereoscope or stereopticon, an ingenious 19th century way to create the illusion of a three-dimensional image, which Wilson transformed into duplicate diptych paintings.
ONE SAINT IN THREE ACTS: A RETROSPECTIVE OF THE WORKS OF ANN WILSON brings together for the first time work from all three periods of a multifaceted life in art. The exhibition is curated by William Niederkorn and Yolanda Hawkins, who met during their participation in “Projekt Faust” in 1981 and have continued their association with Wilson ever since.
During the run of the show, evening events at 7 p.m. will include videos of Wilson's performance pieces and discussions with the participants: May 5, “Electric Affinities; May 8, “Anna O.,” May 17, “Thoughtwoman.”
Simultaneously in Venice, Archivio Emily Harvey will be presenting an exhibition that focuses primarily on work which Wilson has created during various sojourns in Italy, and during residencies in Venice with the Emily Harvey Foundation, curated by Berty Skuber and Henry Martin.