Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts is a feature documentary film exploring the life of a unique American artist, a man with a remarkable and unlikely biography. Bill Traylor was born into slavery in 1853 on a cotton plantation in rural Alabama. After the Civil War, Traylor continued to farm the land until the late 1920s. Aging and alone, he moved to Montgomery and worked odd jobs in the thriving segregated Black neighborhood. A decade later, in his late 80s, Traylor became homeless and started to draw and paint, both memories from plantation days and scenes of a radically changing urban culture. Traylor devised his own visual language to record the stories of his life, translating an oral culture into something original, powerful and culturally rooted. He made well over 1,000 drawings and paintings between 1939–1942.
Traylor witnessed profound social and political change during his life spanning slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws and the Great Migration. The transcendent surprise is while Traylor kept to himself, leading an unassuming life, he was nurturing a remarkable creative gift that would not be expressed for decades.
Using historical and cultural context, Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts brings the spirit and mystery of Traylor’s incomparable art to life. Making dramatic and surprising use of tap dance and evocative period music and spoken word, the film balances archival photographs and footage, insightful perspectives from Traylor family members, and Traylor’s striking drawings and paintings to reveal one of America’s most prominent artists to a wide audience.
The film screening will take place in the performance space at Intuit and conclude with a Q&A with Jeffrey Wolf, director of Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts; Juelle Daley, assistant director of University Arts Engagement at the University of Chicago; and Cleo Wilson, founder and former executive director of Intuit. The panel will be moderated by Payton Head, DEI strategist and member of the museum’s Young Professionals Board.
Please note: Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts includes imagery and language about police brutality and lynching.
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General admission: $15
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All film screening attendees must follow the museum’s health and safety procedures. Intuit is closely monitoring COVID-19 guidelines established by local, state and federal authorities and will promptly share information that affects the event.
This program is funded in part by the Alphawood Foundation, the Department of Cultural Affairs, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Illinois Arts Council Agency, Illinois Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Prince Charitable Trust, Terra Foundation for American Art, and individual donations from Intuit members and supporters.
BILL TRAYLOR: CHASING GHOSTS (2018), 75 min
Directed by Jeffrey Wolf / Produced by Sam Pollard, Jeffrey Wolf, Daphne McWilliams, Jeany Nisenholz-Wolf and Fred Barron