Delouis Wilson is an African American artist, and jewelry designer, and art collector, based in Durham, North Carolina. The papers comprise her journals (1977-2008); calendars; sketchbooks, art school notebooks, and loose pieces of mixed media artwork. The journals, currently closed to use, document in detail her personal life, travels in the U.S. and abroad, including time spent in Tunisia in the Peace Corps, life in Durham, N.C., and employment as a jewelry designer. The collection also includes 30 large photographic studio portraits of African Americans, almost all hand-tinted crayon enlargements, dating from about 1890 to 1945 and collected by Wilson chiefly in the Southern U.S. Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts, the Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture, and the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture at Duke University.
The papers of Delouis Wilson, an artist and jewelry designer based in North Carolina, consist of a set of 27 journals (1977-2008, currently closed); a few calendar notebooks; sketchbooks and notebooks from her time at Atlanta College of Art; and loose pieces of artwork. An important component of Wilson's archive consists of a collection of 30 large photographic portraits of African Americans dating from the late 1880s to about 1940, collected by Wilson chiefly in the American South.
Wilson's journals (closed to use by donor request), calendars, and notebooks document in detail the personal life of the artist, life in Durham, N.C., her travels abroad and in the U.S., including time in Tunisia in the Peace Corps, and her career as a jewelry designer. They include small illustrations contain as well as laid-in items such as letters and postcards; some have handmade covers constructed of textiles and other non-paper materials.
The artwork, sketchbooks, and art notebooks present a mix of drawings, sketches, prints, textile work, and mixed-media color paintings created by Wilson during and shortly after her art school years, all 8x11 inches or less. The notebooks also include art school class notes and handouts, creative writings, and personal notes such as recipes, lists, housing notes, and addresses. There are self-portraits scattered throughout, including a larger piece from 1990 laid into a sketchbook. Also in the collection is one large color photograph of an African American woman by Wilson. The artworks range in size from 4 1/2 x 6 to 16x20 inches.
A central component of the collection are thirty historic studio portraits of individual Black men and women (1890s-1940s), with some of couples and families, collected by Wilson in thrift shops and flea markets throughout the Southern U.S. Most belong to a process called crayon enlargements. The studios developed faint enlargements of the photographic images on convex pieces of thick card stock, then outlined and filled them with ink, crayon, or pastel pigments to resemble a painting. One portrait in the collection is a fully-developed gelatin silver photograph. A few smaller portraits are sized approximately 10x8 to 13x9 inches; the majority are larger, ranging from 19x13 to to 20x16 inches. Most of the prints are hand-tinted with a variety of tecniques, but some are black-and-white, and some are on flat rather than convex mounts.