Martha McDonald is an interdisciplinary artist whose performances and installations feature handcrafted costumes and objects that she activates to transmit narrative. Her practice often focuses on site-specific interventions that uncover hidden histories of sites through song and movement. She has developed work in historic house museums, botanic gardens, a Victorian cemetery, a construction waste recycling facility, and a small boat journeying down a river.
Her work has shown internationally at venues in Berlin, Germany; Melbourne, Australia; Sydney, Australia; the Tamworth Textile Triennial, and Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museum, Aberdeen, Scotland. Nationally, her work has been presented at The Joyce SoHo and PS 122 in New York; Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC; Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina; John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI; Evergreen Museum & Library in Baltimore, MD; and in Philadelphia at the Institute of Contemporary Art, RAIR, The Woodlands, and Rosenbach Museum & Library, among others. McDonald has received fellowships from MacDowell Colony; the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts; and Independence Foundation. She received BA in English from Pennsylvania State University and an MFA from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
McDonald is collaborating with singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and recording engineer, Laura Baird, who, aside from her solo work, has performed and recorded as The Baird Sisters with her sister, Meg Baird and is also a member of The Ruins of Friendship Orchestra.
In 2017, McDonald and Baird collaborated on Music for Modernist Shapes: Reimagining Spectodrama at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville, NC, inspired by a 1936 performance at the college by Bauhaus alum Xanti Schawinsky. They recently collaborated on Phosphene Songs, a site-specific performance in Joy Feasley and Paul Swenbeck’s installation at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, WI.
Honing in on the conceit of the fake Victorian village and in particular, the fake Victorian parlor, they will be playing with the site as a fake Victorian artifact—re-enacting the history of a place that never existed. McDonald and Baird will conjure an imagined memory of a Victorian parlor by creating and performing parlor music for glass instruments, making genteel parlor music on outlandish glass instruments fabricated at Wheaton, from some imagined future. Laura will write music, drawing on historic 19th-century parlor music, specifically to be performed on these glass instruments, some of which will be worn for the performance.
~Julie Courtney, Curator