By Raymond Ward, Chicago Crusader
Rewriting History: Paper Gowns and Photographs, a new exhibition by Fabiola Jean-Louis, will open on Saturday, November 4, 2017, at the DuSable Museum of African American History. Haitian born, Jean-Louis grew up in New York and is a fine artist and photographer based in Brooklyn. Her style is described as haunting, moody, dreamy, and also mysterious. Her work has been commissioned for print in books, branding and album covers. Jean-Louis has also been recognized in other media.
Rewriting History: Paper Gowns and Photographs, is an inquiry into social change. How much has society really changed since the beginning of slavery? Do Black lives matter even in the 21st century? The exhibition interrogates these questions and more through a haunting photographic essay and paper sculptures styled to mimic garments worn by female European nobility between the 15th – 19th centuries. As part of a developing master series of paper gown sculptures, the series speaks to the shocking treatment of Blacks throughout history and the trauma inflicted on their bodies as juxtaposed with the abstract idea of Black freedom. Simultaneously, the body of work engages with a vision of the future – one of hope, strength, resilience, and beauty.
The materials used for the paper gown sculptures are transformed in a way that allows the artist to represent layers of time and the events of the past as they intrude upon the present. Through the materials, the artist suggests that although we cannot change the past, we can act to change the present, as we activate the memories, visions, and legacies of our ancestors. Rewriting History seeks to reconnect viewers to the past so that parallels with current events are amplified.
As a two-part series that includes life size, paper gowns (along with paper props), and photographs, Rewriting History is powerful and provides interaction among viewers. The gowns are made to mimic actual fabric to the point where details such as embroidery, are painstakingly hand-painted onto the paper sculptures.
According to Ms. Jean-Louis, “Rewriting History is an interdisciplinary series that exists to provide a ride through antiquity and imagination. My goal is to use the vehicle of beauty to discuss ugly truths regarding the African Diasporic experience.”