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 May Wilson  (1905 - 1986)

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Lived/Active: New York/Maryland      Known for: assemblage, junk sculpture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, May Wilson has been referred to as the Grandma Moses of the Underground (Bill Wilson, Art & Artists, May 1968) because she led a fairly conventional life as wife and mother until she reached her mid sixties.  In 1968-69, May Wilson was the subject of a film, Woo Who? May Wilson, by Amalie R. Rothschild, and this tells the story of her life change that led her from housewifery to becoming an artist in New York City.

Wilson's husband left her, a stay-at-home mother of three, when she was 63, and she had a painful readjustment from her role as wife-mother-grandmother on a farm in Maryland to life alone in a large city.

As an artist in New York, where she first lived at the Chelsea Hotel and later in a nearby modest apartment, she created photomontage self-portraits, collage and junk sculpture, and continually searched for the redefinition of herself as an artist and as a person.  Artist Ray Johnson, initially a friend of her son's was a major influence on her and a collaborative partner.  Working with him, she went into abstract mixed media two and three-dimensional pieces and also did an extensive doll series.

She exhibited at the Salons of America, the Martha Jackson Gallery, and with the Museum of Modern Art's Traveling Assemblage.

Gerard McCarthy, "May Wilson: Homespun Rebel", Art in America, September 2008, pp. 142-147
Exhibition Record (Museums, Institutions and Awards):
Salons of America; New Idea, New Media Show, Martha Jackson Gallery, New York City, 1960; Museum of Modern Art Traveling Assemblage, New York City, 1962; American Federation of Arts Patroitic Traveling Show, New York City, 1968; Whitney Museum of American Art; Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer, New York City, 1970s.  Awards: Baltimore Museum Art Shows, 1952 & 1959 (Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art)

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