Ilana Harris-Babou: Liquid Gold

Monday, January 30 – Sunday, March 5, 2023

Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, North Gallery
283 Washington Terrace, Middletown, Connecticut

Tuesday through Sunday, Noon to 5pm
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View or download the exhibition handout.


Ilana Harris-Babou: Liquid Gold


Liquid Gold is the first chapter in a series of installations by artist Ilana Harris-Babou. Referring to the value assigned to human breastmilk, Liquid Gold looks at the history of breastfeeding as it has been narrativized, advertised, and suggested for Black mothers in America. Like other projects by Harris-Babou, this exhibition, composed of both a video installation and a sculpture, examines the consumerism and complexity of the wellness industry, while bringing attention to the racialized social structures that create the parameters for an individual’s agency in making personal health decisions.

Installed in the North Gallery of the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, a single-channel video work by Harris-Babou is made with a shallow depth of field, close and textured, constructing an intimate space for viewing in the gallery. The sound for the video, calibrated to the acoustic resonance of the gallery space, remixes the lullaby “All the Pretty Little Horses.” The lyrics and the surround sound presentation of the song also suggest a closeness but amidst a deep loss, holding out the promise that when the child awakes, they will have ‘all the pretty little horses.’ The song is commonly understood to have originated as a lullaby sung by enslaved Black mothers when they would leave their children alone in order to care for their enslaver’s white children. In the passageway approaching the video installation, Harris-Babou installs a sculpture containing ceramic components and other materials derived from historical devices originally designed to aid nursing and breastfeeding, playfully and critically examining the experience and industry of motherhood. Sound and production support was provided by Reese Chahal and Anna Clock.

Ilana Harris-Babou (b. 1991, Brooklyn, New York) lives and works in Brooklyn and Middletown, Connecticut. She has a new video work that will be exhibited as part of the group show Milk at the Wellcome Collection, London (2023). She has presented solo exhibitions of her work at institutions including Artspace New Haven (2022); Kunsthaus Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany (2021); Goucher College, Baltimore, Maryland (2021); Jacob Lawrence Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle (2020); and The Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York (2017). Her work has been featured in group exhibitions including Contact Traces, California College of the Arts Wattis Institute, San Francisco, California (2021); Care Box, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2021); and After the Plaster Foundation, Queens Museum, Corona, New York (2020). She has participated in major exhibitions including the Istanbul Design Biennial, Turkey (2020); and the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York (2019). Harris-Babou is an Assistant Professor of Art and Luther Gregg Sullivan Fellow in Art at Wesleyan University.

Image: Ilana Harris-Babou, from Liquid Gold.

Read "Open-Ended Questions: New Exhibit at the Zilkha Gallery" in The Wesleyan Connection.

Related Events

Opening Reception: Ilana Harris-Babou—Liquid Gold
Monday, January 30, 2023 at 4:30pm

Artist talk by Ilana Harris-Babou
Wednesday, February 15, 2023 at 4:30pm