We knew the Birmingham Public Library had much more to offer than just books, but a new exhibit that highlights the work of Fayette, Alabama, artist Lois Wilson is gracing the library walls with some bizarre found art. “Ladies, Gentlemen and Bazards: The Art of Lois Wilson” is on display in the fourth floor gallery and takes discarded pieces of trash and turns them into treasures.
The exhibit focuses on Wilson’s “found art,” which includes pieces made of wood that she scavenged from demolition sites, parts of furniture she disassembled, old brushes, ironing boards and, yes, toilet seats. Leftover food was used for coloring, further illustrating the themes of environmentalism and conservation. Wilson, who died in 1980, was also trying to express racism, spiritualism, the needs of the aged and homeless and the emptiness of modern American materialism through her work. More than 40 of her pieces are on loan from the Fayette Art Museum in Fayette.
As for the exhibit title, “Bazard,”pronounced buh-zard, is a made-up word that conveys how Wilson saw herself, which is as “a bizarre person, an oddball, an outsider,’’ says Jim Baggett, Birmingham Public Library archivist. “She very much was a person who felt like she did not fit in modern society. Clearly, her artwork illustrates that.”
Now through February 21, library patrons can view the exhibit for free and give their own definition of a “bazard’’ by dropping it into a box in the gallery. The best and most creative answer will win a prize.
A free talk and gallery tour is also scheduled for February 2 at 3 p.m., when Laquita Thomson, associate professor of fine arts at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee, will speak about Wilson as “Alabama Mystic or Alabama Outsider.” The talk will be held in the Arrington Auditorium at the downtown library and followed by a guided tour of the gallery.