On View: Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Northeast (Herstory gallery), 4th floor
At the age of 71, determined to become an artist, May Wilson left rural Maryland and a decades-long marriage for New York City, where, on the advice of her pen pal, mail artist Ray Johnson, she took up residence at the Chelsea Hotel. Generations older than the avant-garde artists she was drawn to, and largely self-taught, Wilson acquired the nickname “Grandma Moses of the Underground.”
Wilson typically embellished and bedazzled found objects with some relationship to her early life, such as nineteenth-century portraits of women and old-fashioned button-up boots. In her Ridiculous Portraits, Wilson collaged ludicrous photo-booth self-portraits onto images she collected from picture postcards, reproductions of famous paintings, mainstream magazines, and soft-core pornography. Produced as personal mementos and often exchanged through the mail with other artists as gifts, her Ridiculous Portraits attacked sexism, ageism, and the cult of beauty with a wry sense of absurdity. A feminist long before the term was commonly used, Wilson relished her years in New York, becoming a beloved if anomalous fixture of the downtown art scene.
Assemblage, wood, rubber (?), metal, netting, paint(?)
Overall: 13 1/2 x 13 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (34.3 x 34.3 x 8.9 cm) (show scale)
"May Wilson 1977" on verso in ink
Gift of Jane N. Barrett
© Estate of May Wilson
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May Wilson (American, 1905-1986). [Untitled], 1977. Assemblage, wood, rubber (?), metal, netting, paint(?), Overall: 13 1/2 x 13 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (34.3 x 34.3 x 8.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Jane N. Barrett, 2007.35. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: , CUR.2007.35.JPG)
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