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Marisa Williamson

Marisa Williamson

marisa williamson hartford art school faculty

Assistant Professor 4-D Foundations


MFA, Art, California Institute of The Arts, Valencia, CA
BA, Visual and Environmental Studies, Harvard University, Boston

Marisa Williamson is a multimedia artist best known for her series of performances in which she played Sally Hemings, who was Thomas Jefferson’s slave and mother of several of his children. With degrees from Harvard University and CalArts, she is an expert at deconstructing and reconfiguring identity as an art form. In the fall 2018 semester, she joined the Hartford Art School Foundations Department to teach 4-D design.

“I’m interested in, through performance, making the past alive in the present and starting conversations about how far we’ve come—or in the case of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, about some of the ways that people are still limited by racism and sexism in this country,” Williamson says.

In Sally Hemings @ The Met, which happened in 2016, Williamson guided participants through the American Wing period rooms of the museum while in character. She answered questions as though she was Sally, and addressed facets of history that textbooks omit. This fall, she looks forward to helping students think about how their own unique identities and experiences inform their art.

Because people curate identities in a litany of multimedia formats today, primarily through profiles, Williamson plans to encourage young artists to think of innovative ways to use media—and platforms—to evolve as tactical thinkers. Embodying Sally Hemings taught her about herself as an artist, and she’s confident that students will find similar enlightenment through their own four-dimensional pursuits.

“Part of what I love about art is how much I’ve changed as a result of making it,” Williamson says. “I’m interested in helping students think about how identity and personal experience can make their way into art, and then to be able to see in the same way they would see any other elements in the process.”

Marisa's Recent Work

Marisa's recent solo exhibitions include SUB, SOHO20, Brooklyn, NY (2017) and Sally Hemings @ The Met, Metropolitan Museum of Art (2016). Her 2017-2018 group exhibitions include Reenactment, BRIC, Brooklyn; Not All There, Human Resources, Los Angeles; Omega Workshop, The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, NYC; andMonument Lab, Mural Arts Program, Philadelphia.

Marisa has held several artist residencies, including the Ruffin Distinguished Artist-in-Residence at the University of Virginia (2018), Triangle Arts Association Fall Residency (2016), Whitney Museum Independent Study Program (2015), New Museum Seminars (2015), and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2012), to name a few.

She has held visiting faculty appointments at Rutgers University in Mason Gross School of the Arts and at Pratt Institute in the Humanities and Media Studies Department, as well as several positions as a museum educator (Brooklyn Museum) and teaching artist (Studio Museum in Harlem).

From her teaching philosophy: To be critical, honest, specific, and detailed is important to me. I’ve been an athletic coach, a teacher of young children, and a museum guide for those struggling with Alzheimer’s. In all capacities, flexibility and receptiveness: the ability to adjust my performance as instructor to accommodate different learning styles, proficiencies, and points of entry has been the most valuable and rewarding part of my pedagogical skill set to cultivate.