A Look Inside

Eliza's Cabinet of Curiosities

Fo WilsonFo Wilson (Folayemi) had the dream job of her youth: designing articles for Essence and designing the magazine's overall format.

But the graphic designer harbored other creative selves.  The first to emerge was the furniture maker.  

Fo Wilson, Brulée tables, mahogany, steel & pheasant feathers, 2005Wilson returned to school (Rhode Island School of Design), took "shop" courses, along with art history and criticism, and produced the elegant chairs and tables shown here.

Fo Wilson, Tangelo chair & end table, aluminum, 2004Then the conceptual artist emerged.

The conceptual self wanted to use "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."

Then the cabin builder emerged.

When our "Onward Fo" article on the life and work of Fo Wilson, graphic-designer-turned-furniture-maker-and-conceptual-artist, was published last year, Fo Wilson had not yet started to construct Eliza's Cabinet of Curiosities. The full-scale cabin structure is called a "cabinet" because it contains items tucked in drawers, hidden in nooks and rafters under floorboards as well as mounted on walls and displayed on furniture.  The items were collected by an inquisitive, enslaved woman who had some access to a wider world and include an actual photograph of President Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd.  

Fo Wilson's model for Eliza's Peculiar Cabinet of CuriositiesNow Eliza's Cabinet of Curiosities has been installed in the Lynden Sculpture Garden in Milwaukee and opened June 26, 3-5 pm

Objects in Eliza's collectionWhen we when checked in with Wilson on June 20, to see how the final cabin construction was going, she was in a "tizzy" as Eliza might say. Rainy weather had delayed the prep. There was still lots to do.  And more rain was predicted during the week. But Wilson, like Eliza, persevered with grit.  

The weather cleared by opening day and the sun shone though Eliza's front door.

Photos of the completed cabin installation are below.

On July 8, 2016, Tomeka Reid, a Chicago-based cellist, will perch on Eliza's porch to perform composed vignettes and spontaneous improvisations in response to Fo Wilson's work. 

Cellist Tomeka ReidOther activities are planned.

The IRAAA+ "Onward Fo" article on Fo Wilson's life-long evolution is here.

Fo Wilson, Eliza's Peculiar Cabinet of CuriositiesThe full installation description and program schedule for Eliza's Cabinet of Curiosities at the Lynden Sculpture Garden are here.

A related article, "Art City Asks: Fo Wilson," is here.

Eliza's Cabinet of Curiosities Installation Views

                                                                         Interior view

Approaching Eliza's cabin

Close-up installation view