Marisa Williamson

Ghosts and Other Unseen Subjects

My project as an artist has been to make the past alive in the present. The stories of free and enslaved blacks whose lives were bounded by formal and informal laws that empowered whiteness at the expense of blackness, limited mobility, constricted livelihoods, and blanketed their world in fear, are buried under layers of well-engineered, well-maintained, and frequently coded forgetfulness. Their stories include those of everyday resistance, self-actualization, creativity, and love. 

Many of our city’s playgrounds, parks, sidewalks, and landmarks, are haunted by such ghost stories. Haunted and haunting are the monumental landscapes of Charlottesville, Virginia. By embodying Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson’s slave, and staging site-specific performances on these contested grounds, as well as Storm King Art Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and numerous public sites and galleries across the country, I’ve worked over the last six years to externalize an internal relationship to race as an historical construct and address the chronic pain of slavery’s legacy as it lurks in the margins and often at the very center of daily life in America.

I will present my performance, video, installation and augmented reality works in relation to public history, creative archives, museological and historiographic critique, and urgent pedagogy. I will consider them in the context of monuments and as anti-monuments; open spaces made for communion with ghosts, resurrection of discourse, and radical reenactment.




Marisa Williamson is a New Jersey-based artist who works in video, installation and performance around themes of history, race, feminism, and technology. She received her B.A. from Harvard University and her M.F.A. from CalArts. She has created site-specific works at and in collaboration with the University of Virginia, Mural Arts Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Storm King Art Center, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her videos, performances, and installations have been exhibited internationally. She is currently on the faculty at the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford.