A report by Andrea Leonhardt for BK Reader.
Fine artist Fabiola Jean-Louis, who has gained national recogntion with her life-size paper gowns, talked about her journey as an artist, her creative process and her exhibition ‘Rewriting History.’
On Thursday, January 18, the Richard Beavers Gallery and BK Reader presented “Conversations in the Gallery,” a series of thoughtful conversations around art, literature, fashion, lifestyle and culture. In the second installment of the series, Haitian-born fine artist Fabiola Jean-Louis, who has made gained national recognition for her life-size paper gowns, talked about her journey as an artist, the processes and inspirations that go into creating her art, and her exhibition “Rewriting History: Paper Gowns and Photographs.”
Jean-Louis’ meteoric rise as an artist began just four and a half years ago, when she began experimenting with conceptional photography – blending science, technology, art and design into magical, fantastic painting-looking photos. She creates life-size, paper gowns (along with paper props) that mimic actual fabric to the point where details such as embroidery, are painstakingly hand-painted onto the paper sculptures and presents them in photography. But why paper?
“As a black woman, I learned to do without,” said Jean-Louis, “to make the best of having nothing sometimes. And fine fabric is expensive. You want to make these amazing, baroque gowns but you need to have the money for that.”
“It talks about my journey as a Buddhist. And my work is also about letting go. Creating something that is absolutely gorgeous and beautiful and then throwing it away, letting it go. Paper talks about that. Life, death – we’re in between that, and my work is always going to reflect this.“
In her art, Jean-Louis tells the stories of her ancestors and expresses the influences of their contributions to American and European History. Her work is inspired by her Afro-Caribbean heritage, Black culture and a dialogue of mysticism. Her exhibition “Rewriting History: Paper Gowns and Photographs,” is a photographic essay that mixes garments worn by female European nobility between the 15th–16th centuries with the bodies, histories and stories of black women, celebrating the beauty and pride of her people.
“In the series, my subjects seemingly look silent. They’re not using their mouths to say anything. But their faces are saying something,” Jean-Louis explained about her exhibit, currently on view at the DuSable Museum in Chicago. “‘Rewriting History’ is always going to present the woman as this regal being. I will never victimize my subject. She is always going to be regal. And she is always going to have pride.”
Conversations in the Gallery with Jean-Louis was the second installment of a 6-part series which takes place every third Thursday of the month at Richard Beavers Gallery. The series kicked off in December 2017 with acclaimed illustrator Frank Morrison. The next installment, on Thursday, February 16, will feature internationally renowned documentary and street photographer Jamel Shabazz, who documented the people of New York City and the iconic pioneers of hip hop music and style. Stay tuned for more announcements and to RSVP.
And…if you missed the conversation with Fabiola Jean-Louis, you can still catch it online.
Conversations in the Gallery
When: Every third Thursday of the month, 7:00pm.
Where: Richard Beavers Gallery, 408 Marcus Garvey Blvd., Brooklyn, NY 11216.