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Performance date: Saturday, October 17; 1:00 P.M.

Martha McDonald (b. 1964, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) features handcrafted costumes and objects that are activated by the acts of singing, making, and ultimately undoing her handwork as "woman's work." Her performance at the Portrait Gallery is presented in conjunction with the exhibition "Dark Fields of the Republic: Alexander Gardner Photographs, 1859–1872."

My performances in historic house museums and gardens explore how these public places connect with private histories and emotional states. Portraiture is often used to memorialize a public figure and convey aspects of the sitter's character or personality. My work can be seen as a kind of portrait of the site–revealing forgotten histories and remembering the people who lived and worked there. I am fascinated that the building housing the National Portrait Gallery was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers during the Civil War and how Walt Whitman ministered to the sick and dying. My performance seeks to conjure the memory of the hospital and memorialize those who died there.

The Weeping Dress 2010

The Lost Garden, 2014, the Woodlands, Philadelphia
Photo by Ryan Collerd