Fabiola Jean-Louis – Rewriting History Paper Gowns and Photography
By GINNY VAN ALYEA
This past fall a creative synthesis of art and design arrived on the South Side of Chicago when Brooklyn-based artist Fabiola Jean-Louis brought her life-size paper gowns and carefully staged photographs to the DuSable Museum in Hyde Park. This past fall a creative synthesis of art and design arrived on the South Side of Chicago when Brooklyn-based artist Fabiola Jean-Louis brought her life-size paper gowns and carefully staged photographs to the DuSable Museum in Hyde Park.
Jean-Louis was born in Haiti, and she says her work is primarily informed by her Afro-Caribbean heritage, black culture and the dialogue of mysticism. By reinterpreting generally recognizable images of European (white) nobility and recreating the traditional trappings using deceptively simple materials such as paper, Jean-Louis sets up immersive scenarios though which viewers can reconnect to a violent and complicated past while reimagining a more beautiful and hopeful history. Viewers who encounter her work first see a stunning, familiar image, and then they detect the questions beneath the surface. This, for Jean-Louis, is how she seeks to rewrite history – not to change the past but to use history to challenge the present and therefore change society in the future.
The DuSable is an institution devoted to the historic and artistic examination of the African American experience, an evolving mission that is carried out in endless ways. This latest exhibition represents a new direction for the museum. Following is an edited transcript of my conversation with both Jean-Louis and Hedspeth. –GV
Chicago Tribune interview with Jean-Louis