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Treasure & Tarnish: Heinrich Schliemann & the Age of Heroes

Exhibition Details

Treasure & Tarnish: Heinrich Schliemann & the Age of Heroes

April 2 – May 22, 2021

In 1870, Heinrich Schliemann began excavating a site in Northern Turkey believed to be the location of Homeric Troy. Schliemann, so captivated by the Iliad and Odyssey, earnestly believed the fantastical epics to be historical fact, and worked tirelessly to unearth the archaeological evidence that would prove him right.

Malaika Tolford and Abigail Lowe present a new body of work exploring the power of myth in the making of truth. As a ceramicist and archaeology-enthusiast, Tolford has delved into the materials, surfaces, and imagery of Homeric antiquity, creating a collection of works to masquerade as Schliemann’s “discoveries” from his digs throughout Greece and Turkey. Lowe uses her interdisciplinary training in literature and studio art to create paper installations that contextualize Tolford’s objects within the frameworks of the Iliad and Odyssey, as well as keystone stories from Schliemann’s personal history.

Schliemann’s wealth and status granted him an almost unfettered ability to write a first draft of the history that obsessed him, one that is still being unwound by contemporary anthropologists. As artists and storytellers, Tolford and Lowe present Schliemann’s complicated legacy as both a prolific intellectual and self-dealing charlatan. Adopting the bravado of their subject, they have joyfully conflated fact and fiction, amended and altered the archaeologist’s story where they see fit, and have woven in depictions of their own experiences and memories.


Opening Reception: Friday, April 2, 2021 from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Please register for a 30-minute viewing of Treasure & Tarnish: Heinrich Schliemann & the Age of Heroes. Our Opening Day schedule is below; please note that 5–6pm are Art & Design Society only time slots. 

5–6pm: Art & Design Society Members Only

6–8pm: Public Reception

Register Today! 



Conversation and Collaboration:

Artist Talk with Abigail Lowe & Malaika Tolford Friday, April 16, 6-7pm in the Staenberg Gallery

This talk will take place over Zoom. Register to attend the limited in-person event

Scott Olson: Schliemann in Context

Thursday, April 29, 6-7pm in the Staenberg Gallery

University of Iowa PhD candidate, Scott Olson, will discuss the political context of Schliemann's work.

This discussion will take place over Zoom. Register to attend the limited in-person event.

Malaika Tolford: Clay through Time and Place

Friday, May 21, 6-7pm in the Staenberg Gallery

Tolford will explore the role of ceramics in history and science from the Bronze Age to the 21st Century.

About the Artists:

Abigail Lowe is an artist and writer based in St. Louis. She received her BA in Visual and Narrative Identity from Grinnell College in 2015, and was awarded the Art Department’s Post-Baccalaureate Fellowship the following year. Lowe was selected for the Emerging Artist Residency at Grin City Artist Collective (2015) and the Craft Alliance Artist-in-Residence Program (2018). Lowe’s work has been exhibited nationally and is in several private collections.

Malaika Tolford is a ceramic artist who is currently teaching and creating in St. Louis. She completed BAs in Anthropology and Art History at the University of Illinois in Chicago where she worked as a cultural history research assistant and attended bioarchaeology field school in Greece. She has been working in clay for half her life and her current ceramic work reflects her academic interests in history, architecture, and geography. Tolford was an Artist-in-Residence at Craft Alliance in 2008. She currently teaches hand building and wheel throwing classes at Craft Alliance, and sells functional and decorative ware as Place Value Pottery. You can find her work in shops around the St. Louis area and in Craft Alliance’s Gallery Shop.

About the Collaboration:

In early 2020, Lowe and Tolford began the conversation that gradually evolved into the premise of a project, culminating in this exhibition. While Tolford’s work often references the built environment, specifically typological representations of real places, Lowe works in a dream world of feeling, texture, color, and storytelling. They were thrilled by the chance to work together, to wrap notions of history and science into an ambiguous space of fiction and fantasy.

When they settled on the idea of basing this exhibition on Heinrich Schliemann’s controversial career and excavation of Troy, Lowe and Tolford began reading everything they could about this compelling character. As their research progressed, Tolford started exploring her personal archives, digging through old notebooks and papers in order to reflect on her own experiences in archaeology and travel, while diving into issues of identity and personal narratives. Lowe referenced portraits of friends and family members in her drawing processes, recasting key characters from Homer’s epics as those closest to her. Tolford’s replicas of ceramic artifacts and Lowe’s paper installations are a conglomeration of their investigation into Schliemann’s past, as well as their own. Scientific and historic truths and untruths are spun throughout Treasure & Tarnish, peppered with personal memories as well as details taken from Schliemann’s life and exploits.