Fo Wilson: Eliza's Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities Opens at Lynden, June 26

June 16, 2016

For immediate release: 16 June 2016
For further information: Polly Morris, (414) 446-8794

Exhibition Opens on the Grounds and in the Gallery with Reception on June 26

Eliza's Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities, an expansive exhibition of work by artist Fo Wilson, opens at the Lynden Sculpture Garden on Sunday, June 26, 2016 with a reception from 3-5 pm. Eliza's Cabin explores the interior and material worlds of an imaginary enslaved woman in an outdoor structure that is both wunderkammer and slave cabin, and extends into an installation in the gallery. The exhibition will be accompanied by a free publication and a series of performances and public programs.

The Lynden Sculpture Garden is located at 2145 West Brown Deer Road, Milwaukee, WI 53217. The exhibition in the gallery remains on view through October 30, 2016; the cabin, a temporary installation on the grounds, will remain for a longer period of time.

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.

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This summer, Chicago-based artist Fo Wilson unveils 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 the past 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.

In the gallery, Wilson will be exhibiting her ongoing series, P.S. I Love You. 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."

Public Programming
In addition to the broadside, which will feature an essay by scholar Jason Young and Eliza's field notes--created by Wilson--the exhibition will be accompanied by a series of public and educational programs, many of them sited at the cabin. Cellist Tomeka Reid will perform on the porch of the cabin (July 8); Viktor Le will restage the picnic scene from Julie Dash's seminal film, Daughters of the Dust (August 6); Honey Pot Performance will perform their latest work, Ma(s)king Her (August 13); and dancer/choreographer Anna Martine Whitehead will create a durational performance in response to Eliza's cabin and its contents (September 23-24). Viktor Le and Honey Pot Performance will be conducting workshops when they are in Milwaukee. A symposium is being planned for the fall.

Lynden education staff, UWM art education faculty, and Teacher-in-Residence Sue Pezanoski Browne will be working with the teachers who participate in our Innovative Educators Institute, and their students, to design a place-based K-12 education program around Eliza's Cabin. The field trip will connect students with the work of a living artist and generate opportunities for an understanding of how art practices that explore boundaries and liminal spaces are used to re-imagine histories. Through the fictional Eliza, local students will experience the history of slavery from the viewpoint of the “other."

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.

About the Lynden Sculpture Garden
The Lynden Sculpture Garden offers a unique experience of art in nature through its collection of more than 50 monumental sculptures sited across 40 acres of park, lake and woodland. The sculpture garden is open to art and nature lovers of all ages Fridays through Wednesdays, 10 am-5 pm (closed Thursdays); in the summer it remains open until 7:30 pm on Wednesdays. Admission to the sculpture garden is $9 for adults and $7 for students and seniors; children under 6 and members are free. Annual memberships are also available.

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