Born in Seymour, Iowa, in 1924, Wilson moved to New York in 1949 after studying at Iowa University, but the Midwestern landscape continued to be a life-long influence. Her paintings are haunted by Iowas "meadows, farmlands, flatlands and hills, endless vistas of Americana. Consisting of moody skies looming above a low horizon of land or sea, her work draws upon French Impression, Dutch landscape paintings, and Abstract Expressionism. Up to thirty layers of pigment in complementary colors give her paintings a translucence that makes them seem lit from within. She belonged to the group known as the Second Generation Abstract Expressionists and founded the Hansa Gallery, one of the first successful painters cooperatives. In order to support her career as a painter, she also modeled for seven years in the 1950s, appearing in Vogue and other fashion magazines. She has taught at the Pratt Institute and the Parsons School of Design, and has served as the chair of the art department at Columbia University.