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Virgil Marti, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. For Oscar Wilde, 1995. Live sunflowers, ceramic plaque, silk lilies, silkscreen printed wallpaper (pigment on paper-backed cotton sateen), cotton velveteen, and iron bed. Installation at Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia. Dimensions vary with installation. Photo credit: Will Brown. Virgil Marti, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. For Oscar Wilde, 1995. Live sunflowers, ceramic plaque, silk lilies, silkscreen printed wallpaper (pigment on paper-backed cotton sateen), cotton velveteen, and iron bed. Installation at Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia. Dimensions vary with installation. Photo credit: Will Brown.
Virgil Marti, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. For Oscar Wilde, 1995. Live sunflowers, ceramic plaque, silk lilies, silkscreen printed wallpaper (pigment on paper-backed cotton sateen), cotton velveteen, and iron bed. Installation at Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia. Dimensions vary with installation. Photo credit: Will Brown.
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Virgil Marti, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. For Oscar Wilde, 1995. Live sunflowers, ceramic plaque, silk lilies, silkscreen printed wallpaper (pigment on paper-backed cotton sateen), cotton velveteen, and iron bed. Installation at Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia. Dimensions vary with installation. Photo credit: Will Brown.
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Virgil Marti

Virgil Marti created For Oscar Wilde as a site-specific installation in and around a prison cell in Philadelphia’s now-abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary (Prison Sentences: The Prison as Site/The Prison As Subject, organized by Julie Courtney and Todd Gilens). Taking Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment in 19th century England as his cue, Marti borrowed from the William Morris-inspired design of Wilde’s day and fashioned an aesthetically pleasing cell, one that the playwright himself might have found bearable during his own confinement.
 
The piece progresses from the natural to the artificial, with beauty as one of its central themes—an idea with heightened poignancy considering the decay and desolation of the once-formidable stone prison. An outdoor garden bed of radiant sunflowers marks the entry into the prison itself, while a meandering path made from a border of silk lilies in full bloom leads to the doorway of the cell. Once inside, the cell itself contains a single bed—a ribbed iron frame made slightly more enticing by its pure white velveteen slipcover—and the walls are covered with silkscreen printed wallpaper of the artist’s design, sunflowers above, lilies below. A band of scripted text of Wilde’s writings divides the Arts and Crafts floral patterns.
 
For Oscar Wilde is an homage to Wilde, but it also offers commentary on the terrible irony of his life as a champion of art and beauty over conventional morality. During his final years, Wilde found himself imprisoned for what was deemed a lack of morality, as his homosexuality was viewed at that time.

Bio
American, born 1962, lives in Philadelphia
Raised in Missouri, Virgil Marti attended Washington University in St. Louis, where he completed a BFA in 1984, prior to earning a MFA from Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia (1990). His awards include a Pew Fellowship in the Arts (1995) and The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (1997). An emerging talent of increasing national reputation, Marti has had solo exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia (2001), Thread Waxing Space in New York (1998), and White Columns in New York (1996), and his work has been acquired by major museums such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.