November 1, 2021
This week we recognize the work of artist Marion Wilson.
Greening the Red Line began with art classes taught at Urban Ministries’ drop-in art room which is one mile from the national headquarters of Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Heated conversations ensued about the historical practice of red-lining, which denied mortgage loans based on race, and the ways that artists both resist and participate in urban development. Participants shared memories of neighborhoods that have changed; and wrote poems about what it feels like to be a person who “travels by foot."
"As the Environmental Artist at the McColl Center in Charlotte, North Carolina during Fall 2016, I used the 'southern landscape' to talk about issues of housing and rapid-fire development of Charlotte’s city center; and the historically racist practice of red-lining where banks restricted housing loans to people of color. My community engagement project was held in partnership with the Urban Ministries Center art program where I led a Drop-in Drawing Clinic in a renovated RV art and botany lab called MLAB that I brought down from Syracuse, New York."
"Within the first two weeks, with the assistance of McColl Center, I was able to sit down with a developer who owned a 2.5 acre abandoned lot next door to Urban Ministries and get permission to use 900 North Tryon Street as a platform for my work. In collages, I imagined blanketing the lot with a large bed of a red — creating a metaphoric red stop sign to slow down and look at what we are doing with all of this development. I ran drawing clinics in the RV, both looking closely through jewelers loupes at species of urban mosses and grasses found on the lot; but also turning our viewfinders to the panoramic view of the city to re-imagine through sketches what we as artists, people who are served by the Urban Ministries and already use the lot; or anyone who feels resistance to development."
"In my own studio practice I brought back barrels and bags of the red clay soil and rocks from a lot being developed near Alexandria Park – along the River Creek walk. In glass planters I grew three 'cover crops': crimson clover, winter rye and winter cow pea. Crimson Clover blooms a brilliant red in the spring and all of the cover crops add nutrients to the soil and help with erosion in time that farmers use to grow crops in the spring. I began making larger and larger containers and raised beds for the crops and eventually turned to the church pew fragments that I had brought down with me from a previous project. In a thin layer of local soil I grow these three crops as if they were paintings of the Southern landscape."
Marion Wilson's art investigates landscape to foster a connection to self and place. Through paintings, photographs, and installations, she interrogates our relations to nature at a time when extreme climate change threatens ecosystems, livelihoods, and communities. The artist builds partnerships with botanists, architects, and urban communities, reflecting collective skill sets. She founded MLAB and MossLab, a mobile eco/art lab in a student renovated RV — driving from Syracuse to Miami examining moss species, and 601 Tully — the renovation of an abandoned 1900 residence into a neighborhood art center in upstate NY. Wilson re-finished a houseboat in Vineyard Haven, MA, during the pandemic, which she named 100 Lagoon Pond, providing her with an art studio and a public platform towards collective lagoon health. marionwilson.com
Featured Images: ©Marion Wilson, Greening the Red Line, 2015-2017.