Megan Wilson is a visual artist based out of San Francisco. Wilson’s large-scale installations and public projects utilize a broad range of pop culture methodologies and aesthetics as a point of entry and engagement for the issues she addresses conceptually. She's used traditional crafts, interior design, and sign painting to explore the meanings of “home” and “homelessness;” public murals and street art as a strategy for challenging corporate values and the surface aesthetics of capitalism; public video projections as an alternative to corporate messaging; and performance through the embodiment of a bright pink, cuddly pig with a big grin to represent corporate criminals, doling out their “Lies,” “Toxic Debt,” and “Dirty Tricks.” Her project 99% used hand painted signs as a form of viral messaging in support of the Occupy movement, as well as a model for providing a livable wage for labor. In addition to the United States, Wilson has created projects in Bali, Indonesia; Tokyo, Japan; Yogyakarta, Indonesia (transit project); Yogyakarta, Indonesia (mural project); Jaipur, India; and Manila, Philippines.
In 2000 Wilson co-organized the performance/protest series Art Strikes Back in response to the unprecedented and unrestricted level of gentrification and displacement in San Francisco during the "dotcom boom." In 2003 she curated and co-organized the international exchange and residency Sama-sama/Together, a collaboration between community arts organizations and artists from San Francisco (USA) and Yogyakarta (Indonesia) designed to foster understanding of Muslim and non-Muslim cultures following 9/11. From 2004 – 2008 she transformed her 1,600 sq. ft. living space into an installation that explored and challenged the meanings of “home” and “homelessness” through her project Home 1996-2008. Wilson is a co-organizer of the Clarion Alley Mural Project and one of the organizers of CAPITALISM IS OVER! If You Want It, an ongoing movement of interruptions/actions by artists from around the world in response to the need for a fundamental shift in our approach to Capitalism and the negative impact it has on the environment, health, and wellbeing of all.
Wilson received her BFA from the University of Oregon and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art (S.F.), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Southern Exposure, Intersection for the Arts, The Luggage Store, the San Francisco Arts Commission, Sun Valley Center for the Arts (ID), thirtyninehotel (Honolulu, HI), Green Papaya (Manila), Print It! (Barcelona), and LIP (Yogyakarta). She has created public projects in the San Francisco Bay Area, Tokyo, Japan; Yogyakarta & Bali, Indonesia; Jaipur, India, and Manila Philippines. Wilson is a recipient of grant awards from the Gunk Foundation, Artadia, the Asian Cultural Council, the Ford Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, the Zellerbach Family Foundation, and the San Francisco Art Commission. Wilson’s work is included in FRESH 1: Cutting Edge Illustrations in 3D and FRESH 2: Cutting Edge Illustrations in Public edited by Slanted; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 75 Years of Looking Forward, edited by Janet Bishop, Corey Keller, Sarah Roberts; Street Art San Francisco Mission Muralismo, edited by Annice Jacoby; Mural Art: Murals on Huge Public Surfaces Around the World by Kirakoss Iosifidis; Illustration: Play - Craving for the Extraordinary, Published by Victionary; Sama-sama/Together: An International Exchange Project Between Yogyakarta and San Francisco, Published by Jam Karet; and The Gallery at Villa Montalvo: Selected Exhibitions from 1996-2000, edited by Theres Rohan.
My current work addresses the need for a fundamental shift from free-market Capitalism that puts profit before all else and negatively impacts the environment, health, and wellbeing of all (see my Points to Consider on the State of Free Market Capitalism). We’re all active and/or passive participants in Capitalism. However, it’s not helpful to approach the existing system from a place of polarity - either you live completely off the grid or you’re a Capitalist. I’m interested in creative forms of engagement for provoking deeper considerations of these issues. Influences include philosopher and activist Dr. Cornel West, environmentalist Vandana Shiva, cultural critic and historian Thomas Frank, journalist and social activist Dorothy Day, economist, Raj Patel, social activist Naomi Klein, philosopher Slavoj Žižek, economist Richard D. Wolff, and economist Robert Reich.
Additionally, I’ve been a practitioner of Buddhism and Vipassana meditation since 2003. Both are closely tied to my art practice. I often create art that is conceptually rooted in elements of these practices and that is intentionally ephemeral or that I give away. Much of my work is no longer in existence because it was never meant to be permanent - forcing the viewer/consumer, as well as myself, to let go of any expectations of its monetary worth. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate or create work that’s collectible and/or consumer-based; I do create and appreciate such work. However, it is integral to my practice to challenge myself in ways that are always pushing me to evolve, including the creation of work that's impermanent or gifted.
1-Page Resume (printable
Recent, Current & Upcoming Projects/Exhibitions & News:
Floating Mandala Featured in California Homes magazine
A few years ago I created this installation Floating Mandala for the San Francisco home of collectors Maryam Mohit and Erik Blachford and their children. The Spring 2014 issue of California Homes includes the installation as part of their feature on designer Claudia Juestel's transformation of the Mohit / Blachford home. Floating Mandala developed out of the 5-year installation that I did in my home of 13 years that I was Ellis evicted from at the end of 2008 - Home 1996 - 2008.
Megan Wilson, Floating Mandala, textiles, pins, silver leaf ceiling, 384" x 240," San Francisco, CA 2010
Megan Wilson, Floating Mandala, textiles, pins, silver leaf ceiling, 384" x 240," San Francisco, CA 2010
Wall of Shame & Solutions
Clarion Alley Mural Project
Clarion Alley, San Francsico, CA
WALL OF SHAME AND SOLUTIONS:
In a city that is rapidly changing to cater to the one-percent at every level, Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) is one of the last remaining truly punk venues in San Francisco, organized by a core and revolving group of individuals who have collectively volunteered tens of thousands of hours throughout its history over the past 21 years.
As part of CAMP’s mission to be a force for those who are marginalized and a place where culture and dignity speak louder than the rules of private property or a lifestyle that puts profit before compassion, respect, and social/economic/environmental justice, CAMP artists/organizers Megan Wilson, Christopher Statton, and Mike Reger completed Clarion Alley Mural Project’s Wall of Shame and Solutions to address the current crisis of displacement and the dismantling of our city’s historic culture.
Wilson herself was evicted in 2008 through the Ellis Act from her home of 13 years. In 2013 she was evicted from her studio at 340 Bryant Street, along with 150 other artists, by developer Joy Ou of Group i to make way for new tech offices. 340 Bryant Street was one of the last remaining affordable industrial spaces for artists’ studios in San Francisco. Additionally, during the painting of the Wall of Shame and Solutions Wilson was held by a Mission District police officer (with a back-up team of two officers) for 30-minutes for “breaking San Francisco’s Sit/Lie Ordinance” by sitting on the ground while taking a break from painting the mural.
Press for the Project:
San Francisco Bay Guardian
San Francisco’s “Mission Local” Disrespects the Wishes of Artists & Clarion Alley Mural Project
In December 2013 I received an email forwarded from Annice Jacoby that was originally from Mission Local’s Editor-In-Chief Lydia Chávez. The email was sent to Rigo 23, John Jota Leaños, Isis Rodriguez, Jet Martinez and myself. Lydia was promoting a contest by Mission Local, asking artists to submit designs for the “Google Bus” shuttles.
From Mission Local: “Yes, Mission Local is still giving a $500 reward for the best entry into our unofficial contest to turn the tech buses into art. But what’s better is that it is no longer completely unofficial. Apart from our prize money — which was more of a gesture to those artists willing to give something unofficial a try — Genentech wants to bedazzle its buses and will select one winner whose art will adorn the side of one of its buses in 2014!”
Rigo 23, John Jota Leaños, Jet Martinez and I vehemently opposed the contest and any association with it (the full exchange can be viewed HERE).
In early February we learned that the Winner was selected (see image above): http://missionlocal.org/2014/02/entries-wrap-tech-buses-with-humor-anger-art-politics-and-the-winner-is/
The real point for Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) and the artists involved here was one of respect – on a number of levels: 1) Several artists from CAMP were engaged in an exchange with Mission Local’s Editor-In-Chief Lydia Chavez during the initial promotion of this contest (see the link above). Each of us (three are core organizers for CAMP) expressed our desire to not be included in any way in this contest and articulated why we do not support it – additionally one of the artists (Jet Martinez) was the one who painted Community Thrift. Therefore, the selected entry really seemed like the choice was based on spite and retaliation for that expression; and 2) If the idea here is to build community, then the process was anything but that, and rather more about creating greater divides since neither Clarion Alley Mural Project or Community Thrift were approached to weigh in on the winning selection and it was already known that we were opposed to the contest in general. That’s not about community or respect – it’s more about contemporary colonialism and the elite caste system that these private transportation services have created – now, also reflected in Mission Local’s contest and process for selection.
Several days later the winning artist - Elinor Diamond withdrew her original image and selected a new one:
Big Thank You to Elinor Diamond for withdrawing her image of Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) and Community Thrift and replacing it with a new one!
It’s truly unfortunate that Mission Local put her in this position to begin with – knowing that three of the artists (myself, Rigo 23, and Jet Martinez) who are core organizers of Clarion Alley Mural Project (and Jet painted the Community Thrift facade) were so strongly against the contest and its underlying implications with regard to creating a divisive corporate transit system. It would have been more responsible on ML’s part to at least let Elinor know the position of the artists and that her design was selected for its concept, therefore another image would also be acceptable. While I don’t support these private shuttles and the class caste system they create, I do appreciate Elinor’s decision to provide a new image.
There was also a lot of discussion around copyright with regard to this particular incident. I want to clarify that CAMP never suggested copyright infringement or that we would take legal action in this case. However, we do register our murals with the U.S. Copyright Office, we do have an attorney, and we do take action when we feel a case has the merit to do so. Finally, as I’ve previously noted, the issue in this case is one of respect. CAMP’s artists have collectively donated tens of thousands of hours of volunteer time over the past 21 years – it’s truly been a labor of love. We do pay our artists a small stipend for materials when we can, but it in no way matches the amount of time and energy that folks give. The project did not start as a magnet for tourists or as an icon for San Francisco; it began as a project to build community with the neighbors on the alley and to help showcase the works of local artists. We do love sharing our work with folks and we have many great encounters with locals and visitors daily. We are always happy to share our work – it’s FREE – but we have drawn the line for commercial purposes … PLEASE contact us for written permission … and if we do agree, please give the artists and CAMP credit. One of the things that has made Clarion Alley a unique space is that we’ve been going strong with integrity for over 21 years as a volunteer-run space without commercial ties. The few times that we have agreed to allow commercial projects to film on the alley, we’ve gone through a long process of ensuring compensation and credit to the artists & CAMP. And if we say “NO” please RESPECT our wishes.
Read Mission Loc@l’s update HERE.
Press Coverage of the incident included:
The Bold Italic
Projects / News in 2013
TAX THE RICH, Megan Wilson, public mural, Clarion Alley Mural Project, San Francisco, CA, 2013, mural in progress.