Fo Wilson: Eliza's Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities

June 26, 2016 - October 30, 2017

Fo Wilson - Eliza's Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities

Eliza's Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities is an ongoing project of the Lynden Sculpture Garden and is open to the public April through October (weather permitting). The Cabinet remains at the center of our education and public programming, with new programming each summer. Call and Response programming available here: 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

We have published a broadside to accompany Eliza's Cabinet. It is available without charge at the Lynden Sculpture Garden. To view or download a PDF of the broadside, click here.

Eliza's Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities, 2017
July 23: Arsene Delay
August 5: SistaStrings
August 19: Benjamin Seabrook
Arianne King Comer: IBILE!: Ancestral Call in Cloth
Portia Cobb: Rooted: The Storied Land, Memory, and Belonging
August 5: Free Family Day: Many Elizas

Eliza's Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities, 2016
July 8: Tomeka Reid (Watch video of the performance here.)
August 6: Viktor Le
August 13: Honey Pot Performance (Watch video of the performance here.)
September 17: Anna Martine Whitehead
October 29: Symposium

In the summer of 2016, Chicago-based artist Fo Wilson unveiled Eliza’s Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities on the grounds of the Lynden Sculpture Garden. The full-scale structure is both wunderkammer and slave cabin; it imagines what a 19th-century woman of African descent might have collected, catalogued and stowed in her living quarters. What did she find curious about the objects and culture of her European captors? Southern plantation life? The natural world around her? Informed by historical research, but represented in the past, present and future simultaneously, Eliza--animated by an Afro-Futurist vision that embodies a hopeful version of an African American future--presents an imagined collection of found and original objects, furnishings and artifacts.

With Eliza's Cabin, Wilson positions the Black imagination as an essential element in Black survival and self-determination. The fictional Eliza not only assumes the role of collector, anthropologist and naturalist; as curator of her wunderkammer she asserts her right to creative and artistic forms of social commentary about her time. Through Eliza--and the materialization of her interior world--participants have the opportunity to experience history from the point of view of the “other,”as well as through the eyes of an artist who takes history as one of her materials and employs contemporary media and installation strategies to disrupt the viewer's assumptions about the institution of slavery.

In this project, architecture and material culture become important agents for the inclusion of voices in American history that are usually marginalized. Eliza's collection includes more than 100 found and original objects and specimens, some that relate directly to the period and others that traverse time. In Eliza's world, the symbolic architecture or enslaved space becomes a vehicle for and expression of freedom, as well as a container for her fanciful interpretation of an alien world and her critical assessment of her perilous situation.

From June 2016 to October 2016, Fo Wilson exhibited her ongoing series, P.S. I Love You in the gallery. In this series, Wilson takes early 20th-century found postcards that sentimentalize stereotypes of the "happy servant" in the economies of Southern plantation culture and, using collage and mixed media, restores their dignity. The postcards will be shown in an interactive sound environment, a collaboration with Joel Mercedes, constructed from the recorded narratives of former enslaved people archived in the Library of Congress's "Voices from the Days of Slavery."

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Eliza's Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities is a collaboration with the Chipstone Foundation and is made possible through the generous support of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, Columbia College Chicago, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Bomb Magazine – OHP Excerpt: Folayemi Wilson by Ayanah Moor
Culture Type - For Your Summer Agenda, 49 U.S. Exhibitions Featuring Works by Black Artists
The International Review of African American Art Plus - A Look Inside: Eliza's Cabinet of Curiosities
Art City Asks: Fo Wilson
Wisconsin Gazette - A cabinet of curiosities in a cabin
Art City: Using objects to explore, reimagine a slave's world
Arts Without Borders: A "peculiar curiosity" lurks in the Lynden Scupture Garden's back woods

About the Artist

Fo Wilson uses constructed space and furniture forms to create experiences that reposition historical objects and/or aesthetics in a contemporary context and offers audiences new ways of thinking about and interacting with history. Wilson earned an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and is an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago. A grant recipient of Creative Time, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Propeller Fund, her design work is included in the collection of The Cooper Hewitt National Museum of Design. Wilson has been awarded residencies or fellowships at ACRE, Haystack Mountain Center for Craft, Purchase College, and the Anderson Ranch Arts Center. She leads a team that has been awarded a public art commission for the Burnham Wildlife Corridor, a project of the Chicago Parks District and The Field Museum, and is a 2015 3Arts Award awardee.
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