Beauty Surplus: Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels

Beauty Surplus: Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels

July 14, 2019 — June 7, 2020

Brooklyn-based artist Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels (NY) is interested in the intersections of site-specific architecture and interdependent ecosystems. In this project, she embraces “magical speculative feminism,” a philosophy centered on social change that is inspired by adrienne maree brown’s 2017 book, Emergent Strategy. Brown compares communities to ecosystems, positing that their survival in the face of constant change relies on strong relationships. Fels borrows theories from brown and combines them with ideas found in magic realism and science fiction to propose an existence that is collaborative, just, and full of staggering possibilities.

For her Open House Project installation, Fels investigates the architecture of the historic John Michael Kohler home and proposes interrelated sculptural forms that suggest change and transformation. The galleries in the home are altered through a variety of ecologically inspired interventions. Cavern-like ceilings, mysterious ceramic growths, perforated walls, and cloud-like structures transform the exhibition space into an “architecture of becoming.” Fels’s installation is designed to confuse the real and the imaginary, encourage a heightened sense of observation, and challenge the presumed stability of fixed space and structures. Visitors are invited to explore the potential of architectural elements such as floors, ceilings, and walls as vehicles for community building and change.

The Open House Project, an ongoing Arts Center initiative, provides a platform for emerging and underrepresented artists and art forms to cultivate creative examinations of history, source material, contemporary art practices, and site-specificity.

Visit the Beauty Surplus accompanying website for more information about this exhibition.

360-degree view of Beauty Surplus

Fels reimagines the historic John Michael Kohler home as part of her exploration of contemporary beauty standards. This exhibition overview and exhibition handout take a closer look at Fels’ work.


This exhibition is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. Funding was also provided by the Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education, Kohler Foundation, Inc., and the Frederic Cornell Kohler Charitable Trust. The Arts Center thanks its many members for their support of exhibitions and programs through the year.