Tag Archives: Maya Freelon

“Starshine and Clay” at Workhouse Arts Center featuring artwork of KESHA BRUCE, MAYA FREELON & AMBER ROBLES-GORDON

15 Feb

Starshine and Clay

February 13 – March 31

Starshine and Clay
On View February 13 – March 31, 2019
Exhibition Reception: March 9, 6:00-8:00pm
McGuireWoods Gallery

DOWNLOAD PRESS RELEASE 

Workhouse Arts Center and Morton Fine Art present the work of  Kesha Bruce, Maya Freelon and Amber Robles Gordon — three women artists exploring ideas of healing power through their lineage of storytelling.

Bruce’s spirit-based use of guardians, African-American folklore and a prophetic mix of abstracted figures and symbols serve as a reminder ‘to fight’ and to bring about change. Freelon’s visual vortex of potent tissue ink monoprints and quilt-like immersive installations welcome the contemplation of our standing ideas of strength and vulnerability. Robles-Gordon’s powerful narrative and the influence of African elemental and spiritual based practices activate bloodline connections and ancestral memories.

With substantive and varied approaches, Bruce, Freelon and Robles-Gordon chart the transcendence of gender, history and preservation, rooting themselves as important and impactful contributors to current social and cultural dialogues.

Morton Fine Art co-curates “Starshine and Clay” at Workhouse Arts Center

7 Feb
KESHA BRUCE, MAYA FREELON & AMBER ROBLES-GORDON
Starshine and Clay
February 13th – March 31st, 2019
Opening Reception
Saturday, March 9th from 6-8pm
EXHIBITION LOCATION
Workhouse Arts Center
2nd Floor – McGuireWoods Gallery
9518 Workhouse Road
Lorton, VA 22079
HOURS
Wednesday – Saturday 11am – 6pm
Sunday 12pm-5pm
About Starshine and Clay
Morton Fine Art and Workhouse Arts Center present the work of Kesha Bruce, Maya Freelon and Amber Robles Gordon — three women artists exploring ideas of healing power through their lineage of storytelling.
Bruce’s spirit-based use of guardians, African-American folklore and a prophetic mix of abstracted figures and symbols serve as a reminder ‘to fight’ and to bring about change. Freelon’s visual vortex of potent tissue ink monoprints and quilt-like immersive installations welcome the contemplation of our standing ideas of strength and vulnerability. Robles-Gordon’s powerful narrative and the influence of African elemental and spiritual based practices activate bloodline connections and ancestral memories.
With substantive and varied approaches, Bruce, Freelon and Robles-Gordon chart the transcendence of gender, history and preservation, rooting themselves as important and impactful contributors to current social and cultural dialogues.
Co-curated by Amy Morton of Morton Fine Art and Jaynelle Clarke Hazard of Workhouse Arts Center.
KESHA BRUCE
Artwork is spiritwork.
When I pray, I ask my ancestors for the bravery to follow and make manifest the deepest truths and longings of my heart. Every artwork I create is an answered prayer.
In this current political and social moment my prayers are especially urgent: Where can Black women feel safe? Where can we feel free? How do we protect our spirits from those who mean to destroy us?
As an artist, these questions always lead me back to my work.  In my experience, the most powerful weapon for spiritual warfare is joy. I’m not being hyperbolic when I tell you that the process of making artwork has saved my life many, many times. Art is a refuge for the spirit. It offers us a way to understand and heal ourselves. I am of the mind that something absolutely prophetic can be revealed in both the act of making and the act of looking at art.
Art objects embody spiritual power.
I believe this so firmly now, that it seems almost surreal to think back to a time, not so long ago, when I was afraid to speak about my work in spiritual terms for fear of being called less serious or less intellectually rigorous. It’s clear to me now that often our fears show us the parts of ourselves that are desperately waiting to be revealed. To be set free.
So, I present this new work with the firm knowledge that what I am creating is an important and worthy contribution to the current cultural dialogue. More importantly, I consider my work a part of a strategy for resistance. Even as we steel ourselves for battle ahead, we must remember to leave room for joy.
Joy is sacred and so it is worth fighting for.
Remember to fight.
-KESHA BRUCE
SELECTED COLLECTIONS
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (14 pieces), Washington, DC
The Amistad Center for Art and Culture, Hartford, CT
The Museum of Modern Art, Franklin FurnaceArtist Book Collection, New York, NY
The University of Iowa Women’s Center, Iowa City, IA
The En Foco Photography Collection, New York, NY
The Museum of Modern Art/Franklin FurnaceArtist Book Collection, New York, NY
photo credit: Christopher Charles
MAYA FREELON
Maya Freelon is an award-winning visual artist whose work was described by the late poet Maya Angelou as “visualizing the truth about the vulnerability and power of the human being.” Cosmopolitan Magazine featured her in June 2015 in “Art Stars” calling her one “of the most badass female artists in the biz.”  She was commissioned by Google to design original art for their OnHub router, by Cadillac to create a live-sculpture for their Dare Greatly creative campaign, and by the North Carolina Museum of Art to create a collaborative tissue paper sculpture celebrating the opening of their African Art wing. Her unique tissue paper art, praised by the International Review of African American Art as “a vibrant, beating assemblage of color,” has been exhibited internationally, including shows in Paris, Jamaica, Madagascar, and Italy. She was selected by Modern Luxury Magazine as Best of the City; by Huffington Post as “Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Art Makers Under 40 You Should Know”; and by Complex magazine as “15 Young Black   Artists Making Waves in the Art World.”  Maya has completed residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, the Korobitey Institute in Ghana, and the Brandywine Workshop in Philadelphia. She earned a BA from Lafayette College and an MFA from the School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
COLLECTIONS
U.S. State Department
U.S. Embassy in Madagascar
U.S. Embassy Swaziland
U.S. Embassy Rome
The University of Maryland (David C. Driskell Center)
Johns Hopkins University
Rocketship Rise Academy;
The Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum
The School of the Museum of Fine Arts The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Lafayette College
The Brandywine Workshop
The Experimental Printmaking Institute
The Williston Northampton School
The Kokrobitey Institute
Lewis Tanner Moore
Dr. Maya Angelou
AMBER ROBLES-GORDON
My artwork is a visual representation of my hybridism: a fusion of my gender, ethnicity, cultural, and social experiences. I impose colors, imagery, and materials that evoke femininity and tranquility with the intent of transcending or balancing a specific form. I associate working with light, color, and energy as a positive means to focus on the healing power found in the creative process and within us all. It is my belief that colors have both feminine and masculine energies and each color represents a specific aspect of nature.
-Amber Robles Gordon
COLLECTIONS
Judith A. Hoffberg Archive Library
University of California, Santa Barbara, CA
Masterpiece Miniature Art Exhibition, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Capital One Bank, Mc Clean,Virginia
District of Columbia’s Art Bank, Washington, D.C.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, NY
The Gautier Family Collection, Washington, DC
About Workhouse Arts Center
Workhouse Arts Center is a Virginia not-for-profit corporation that was created for planning, developing and fundraising a self- sustaining arts space. The primary goal has been and remains the renovation, preservation and reuse of the former District of Columbia Complex’s Workhouse facilities. Officially transitioned from the District of Columbia Prison Complex to Workhouse Arts Center in 2008, the organization now sits on 55-acres of land surrounded by rolling hills, featuring 4 main gallery spaces, near 100 artist studios and hosts an array of arts education courses, festivals and theatre performances.
About Morton Fine Art
Founded in 2010 in Washington, DC, Morton Fine Art (MFA) is a fine art gallery and curatorial group that collaborates with art collectors and visual artists to inspire fresh ways of acquiring contemporary art. Firmly committed to the belief that anyone can become an art collector or enthusiast, MFA’s mission is to provide accessibility to museum-quality contemporary art through a combination of substantive exhibitions and a welcoming platform for dialogue and exchange of original voice.

Preview of Morton Fine Art’s Booth at Prizm Art Fair in Miami

29 Nov

 

 

Sneak Preview of Morton Fine Art’s Booth at Prizm Art Fair in Miami
Contact the gallery for complimentary passes.
Morton Fine Art will be closed 12/5-12/8 during our time in Miami, however we are available by phone (202) 628-2787 or mortonfineart@gmail.com if you need to reach us!
OSI AUDU
THE TANGIBLE AND INTANGIBLE
I explore the light sheen of graphite, the matte, light absorbing quality of black pastel, the white of paper and canvas, as well as the visually affecting interactions of colors to investigate form and its evocative potential to suggest or hint at something about the shape of the head. I am interested in the dualism of form and void, and the ontological relation between the tangible and intangible, something and nothing, light and dark, body and mind, the dual nature of being – the self in portraits.
The construction of a sense of self is a very complex process, perhaps even more so in our increasingly global age, in which the boundaries between race, nationality, gender and sexuality are getting more and more blurred. I am interested in issues of self identity, and in concepts of the self rooted in my cultural experiences growing up in Nigeria, as well as global metaphysical, scientific, and social concepts of the self. There is a Yoruba thought that consciousness, referred to as the “head”, has both a physical dimension called the “outer head” and a non-physical one: “the inner head”. It is the visual implications of concepts like this that I find intriguing. The title, Self-Portrait, in my work, is more about the portrait of the intangible self, rather than a literal portrait of the artist. – OSI AUDU
COLLECTIONS
Smithsonian Museum of African Art
The Newark Museum
The British Museum
Horniman Museum
Wellcome Trust Gallery
OSI AUDU, Self-Portrait after Dogon Bird Mask II, 2018, 15″x22″, graphite and pastel on paper mounted on canvas
OSI AUDU, Self Portrait after Igbo Mask, 2018, 11″x15″, acrylic on canvas
KESHA BRUCE
KESHA BRUCE, The Sky Opened for Her, 2016, 60″x48″, mixed media on canvas
KESHA BRUCE, Fight Fire with Fire, 2017, 40″x30″, mixed media on canvas
Artwork is spiritwork.
When I pray, I ask my ancestors for the bravery to follow and make manifest the deepest truths and longings of my heart. Every artwork I create is an answered prayer.
In this current political and social moment my prayers are especially urgent: Where can Black women feel safe? Where can we feel free? How do we protect our spirits from those who mean to destroy us?
As an artist, these questions always lead me back to my work.  In my experience, the most powerful weapon for spiritual warfare is joy. I’m not being hyperbolic when I tell you that the process of making artwork has saved my life many, many times. Art is a refuge for the spirit. It offers us a way to understand and heal ourselves. I am of the mind that something absolutely prophetic can be revealed in both the act of making and the act of looking at art.
Art objects embody spiritual power.
I believe this so firmly now, that it seems almost surreal to think back to a time, not so long ago, when I was afraid to speak about my work in spiritual terms for fear of being called less serious or less intellectually rigorous. It’s clear to me now that often our fears show us the parts of ourselves that are desperately waiting to be revealed. To be set free.
So, I present this new work with the firm knowledge that what I am creating is an important and worthy contribution to the current cultural dialogue. More importantly, I consider my work a part of a strategy for resistance. Even as we steel ourselves for battle ahead, we must remember to leave room for joy.
Joy is sacred and so it is worth fighting for.
Remember to fight.
-KESHA BRUCE
SELECTED COLLECTIONS
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (14 pieces), Washington, DC
The Amistad Center for Art and Culture, Hartford, CT
The Museum of Modern Art, Franklin Furnace Artist Book Collection, New York, NY
The University of Iowa Women’s Center, Iowa City, IA
The En Foco Photography Collection, New York, NY
The Museum of Modern Art/Franklin Furnace Artist Book Collection, New York, NY
NATHANIEL DONNETT
African textiles, Gee’s Bend Quilts, and the everyday aesthetic within
the historic African American neighborhoods of Houston, Texas inspire “Boom”. This
work acts as a reminder to the extrinsic value of these neighborhoods through the
lens of its spatial geography and relationship to gentrification, along with objects
and form in terms of cultural iconography, and the everyday aesthetic. Drum
notations and Houston’s hip-hop car culture formulate the abstract patterns. These
patterns act as a response to the marginalization of Black American identity, the black spatial imaginary, and contemporary art. During the times of American slavery, it was said that southern quilts communicated warnings to the slaves.
Although this was found to be a myth, this contemporary makeshift quilt does
communicate moments of neighborhood erasure and the silencing of its cultural
contributions. It also simultaneously celebrates the neighborhood’s cultural socio-
consciousness and overall complexity.
-NATHANIEL DONNETT
MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS
The Ulrich Museum, Wichita, KS
The McColl Center, Charlotte, NC
The American Museum, Washington, DC
The Kemper Contemporary Arts Museum, Kansas City, MO
The Theresa Hotel, Harlem, NY
Harvey B Gantt Art Center for African American Arts and Culture, Charlotte, NC
The Community Artist’s Collective
The Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury CT
The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TX
Project Row Houses, Houston, TX
The University Museum, Houston, TX
The New Museum, New York, NY
NATHANIEL DONNETT, Boom, 2018, 40″x46″, duct tape, plastic and photographs on paper
VICTOR EKPUK
VICTOR EKPUK, Head 4, 2015, 45″x48″, acyrlic on panel
VICTOR EKPUK, Mask Series 1, 2018, 24″x18″, acrylic on canvas
Victor Ekpuk is a Nigerian-American artist based in Washington, DC.
His art, which began as an exploration of nsibidi “traditional” graphics and writing systems in Nigeria, has evolved to embrace a wider spectrum of meaning that is rooted in African and global contemporary art discourses.
Guided by the aesthetic philosophy nsibidi, where sign systems are used to convey ideas, Ekpuk re-imagines graphic symbols from diverse cultures to form a personal style of mark making that results in the interplay of art and writing.
Ekpuk’s art reflects his experiences as a global artist. “The subject matter of my work deals with the human condition explained through themes that are both universal and specific: family, gender, politics, culture and Identity” -Victor Ekpuk
COLLECTIONS
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Smithsonian Museum of African Art
Brooks Museum
Krannert Art Museum
Arkansas Art Center
Fidelity Investments
Newark Museum
The World Bank
University of Maryland University College Art Collection
The U. S. Department of State
MAYA FREELON
Maya Freelon is an award-winning visual artist whose work was described by the late poet Maya Angelou as “visualizing the truth about the vulnerability and power of the human being.” Cosmopolitan Magazine featured her in June 2015 in “Art Stars” calling her one “of the most badass female artists in the biz.”  She was commissioned by Google to design original art for their OnHub router, by Cadillac to create a live-sculpture for their Dare Greatly creative campaign, and by the North Carolina Museum of Art to create a collaborative tissue paper sculpture celebrating the opening of their African Art wing. Her unique tissue paper art, praised by the International Review of African American Art as “a vibrant, beating assemblage of color,” has been exhibited internationally, including shows in Paris, Jamaica, Madagascar, and Italy. She was selected by Modern Luxury Magazine as Best of the City; by Huffington Post as “Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Art Makers Under 40 You Should Know”; and by Complex magazine as “15 Young Black   Artists Making Waves in the Art World.”  Maya has completed residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, the Korobitey Institute in Ghana, and the Brandywine Workshop in Philadelphia. She earned a BA from Lafayette College and an MFA from theSchool of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
COLLECTIONS
U.S. State Department
U.S. Embassy in Madagascar
U.S. Embassy Swaziland
U.S. Embassy Rome
The University of Maryland (David C. Driskell Center)
Johns Hopkins University
Rocketship Rise Academy;
The Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum
The School of the Museum of Fine Arts The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Lafayette College
The Brandywine Workshop
The Experimental Printmaking Institute
The Williston Northampton School
The Kokrobitey Institute
Lewis Tanner Moore
Dr. Maya Angelou
photo credit: Christopher Charles
MAYA FREELON, Compression, 2017, 44″x34″, tissue ink monoprint
MAYA FREELON, Intuition, 2017, 46″x44″, tissue ink monoprint
AMBER ROBLES-GORDON
AMBER ROBLES-GORDON, Awakening the Matrilineal: Calling in the West, 36″x36″, mixed media on canvas
AMBER ROBLES-GORDON, Awakening the Matrilineal: South and of the Fire, 2016, 34″x35″, mixed media on canvas
Awakening the Matrilineal
“My artwork is a visual representation of my hybridism: a fusion of my gender, ethnicity, cultural, and social experiences. I impose colors, imagery, and materials that evoke femininity and tranquility with the intent of transcending or balancing a specific form. I associate working with light, color, and energy as a positive means to focus on the healing power found in the creative process and within us all. It is my belief that colors have both feminine and masculine energies and each color represents a specific aspect of nature.” -Amber Robles Gordon
COLLECTIONS
Judith A. Hoffberg Archive Library
University of California, Santa Barbara, CA Masterpiece Miniature Art Exhibition, Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia Capital One Bank, Mc Clean,Virginia District of Columbia’s Art Bank, Washington, D.C.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, NY
The Gautier Family Collection, Washington, DC
NATE LEWIS
In continuing my work with black figures I sculpt in unseen tensions of the past present and future on bodies with the idea of utilizing diagnostic lenses and contrast dyes to reveal erased and unknown histories and patterns.
Through the use of presence, absence, distortion and illusion and while in a time when the digital world has severe control of our information feeds I aim to challenge our lens’, the powers that hold our attention, and create opportunities for questioning and perspective alteration.
In my time working as a critical care nurse, we would use a multitude of lenses to gain a broad understanding of what is going on with any given situation to find homeostasis. While facts and diagnostic information can inform us of any given situation, without empathy and perspective alteration, our hearts will remain unchanged.
– NATE LEWIS
Nate Lewis grew up in Beaver Falls, near Pittsburgh, Pa. He graduated from VCU with his BSN and was a practicing critical care nurse for five years as well as professional fine artist. He has been awarded prestigious residencies at Pioneer Works and Dieu Donne in NYC, Agora Culture on Martha’s Vineyard and won a number of artist fellowship grants from the DC Commission of the Arts and Humanities.
NATE LEWIS, Spirit Suite, 2018, 21.5″x26″, hand sculpted photo paper print
NATE LEWIS, Traverse Suite, 2018, 26″x26″, hand sculpted photo paper print
About Morton Fine Art
Founded in 2010 in Washington, DC, Morton Fine Art (MFA) is a fine art gallery and curatorial group that collaborates with art collectors and visual artists to inspire fresh ways of acquiring contemporary art. Firmly committed to the belief that anyone can become an art collector or enthusiast, MFA’s mission is to provide accessibility to museum-quality contemporary art through a combination of substantive exhibitions and a welcoming platform for dialogue and exchange of original voice.
Morton Fine Art
52 O St NW #302
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 628-2787
For further information and images, please contact Amy Morton:
#

Morton Fine Art participates in Prizm Art Fair in Miami December 3 – 9, 2018

16 Oct

 

Prizm Art Fair 2018
December 3rd – December 9th | Open Daily: 10 am – 6 pm
PRIZM is the producer of a cutting-edge cultural platform that is multidisciplinary in scope. Our goal is to expand the spectrum of exhibiting international artists from the African Diaspora and emerging markets.
Our mission is to promote the work of artists from Africa and global African Diaspora, who reflect global trends in contemporary art. Workshops and special events are organized throughout the year to advance critical dialogue and sharpen the lens through which we view and understand contemporary art. We are committed to the Miami cultural community and will work to expand its visual arts landscape, nurture and educate its constituents and provide forums for cross cultural exchange.
Prizm exhibits a dynamic group or contemporary artists during Art Basel/Miami Beach and beyond. Salient works are presented that highlight the diversity evident in contemporary visual art practices today, including painting sculpture and mixed media installations.
Morton Fine Art will be featuring the artwork of internationally renowned contemporary artists OSI AUDU, KESHA BRUCE, VICTOR EKPUK, MAYA FREELON, AMBER ROBLES-GORDON and NATE LEWIS.

Smithsonian Mag features MAYA FREELON’s “Reciprocity Respite & Repass” at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building during Halcyon’s “By the People” Festival

22 Jun

 

Maya Freelon’s Immersive and Interactive Sculptures Bring Tissue Paper to Life

Her artwork will be a part of this weekend’s By the People Festival at the Arts and Industries building

 

Day One Preview_004.jpg

Maya Freelon’s Reciprocity Respite & Repass at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building (Courtesy of Halcyon)
smithsonian.com
June 21, 2018

For more than a decade, artist Maya Freelon has created striking abstract sculptures and installations from tissue paper and water stains. Her technique — letting water gently drip so the paper’s color bleeds organically — arose from happenstance, when, as an MFA student, she discovered a stack of old tissue paper in her grandmother’s basement.

Freelon’s assemblages reside in collections around the world, from U.S. Embassies in Madagascar, Swaziland, and Rome, to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. This month, she’s installed a monumental, interactive tissue paper sculpture for the first annual By The People International Festival at the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building. Named “Reciprocity Respite & Repass,” her artwork is one of a selection of immersive and interactive art installations at the AIB, the headquarters for the festival. By the People will also feature a series of workshops and talks with experts.

As for Freelon, however, there is perhaps no better introduction to her than the late poet Maya Angelou, who described the tissue paper artwork as “visualizing the truth about the vulnerability and power of the human being.”

When did you discover your medium, working with tissue paper and water?

In 2006, I was in graduate school in Boston at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, now part of Tufts Museum School. At the time, I lived with my grandmother and it was a found artist’s dream treasure trove because she did not throw anything away. Queen Mother Frances J. Pierce said, “We grew up a family of sharecroppers that never got their fair share.” She would always speak in rhymes and her sayings come up often as titles in my work, such as Bloom Where You’re Planted. She was very proud of her African heritage and really embraced it before it was cool. She followed the original Black Panthers. And she had stuff everywhere— books, papers, magazines stacked to the ceiling. She just collected and collected. There were journals and Confederate money I found, just things that had not seen the light of day in 50 or 60 years. Eight track tapes. Hot combs (the original kind that you put in the oven stove). Thousands of keys and pens.

So one day, I went to the basement and discovered this tissue paper that was water damaged. It must have been a leaky pipe or something because it was right under the bathroom. There was a watermark from a constant drip, which had to be years ago, on this rainbow pack of colored tissue paper.

What was so powerful about the visual manifestation of this leak for you?

The watermark is a familiar sign to most people in the entire world. It just means: water was once here. You can see that in a lake that has receded. You can see it in the desert. You can see it in a rainforest, creek bed, even the Grand Canyon. It’s a marker of time or evaporation — a familiar sign to all human beings. I felt the commonality and a kind of interconnectedness of our humanity. This beautiful little accident sparked a world of discovery for me.

And three weeks after I found the stained tissue paper, Hurricane Katrina wiped out the Gulf Coast. So, I’m finding a parallel between water moving color literally and water as destruction. Seeing the images in the media and simultaneously watching water push ink out of tissue paper, I was struck by how a constant drip of water can dilute pure color— and I reflected on the fragility of life. I also questioned the hierarchy of art materials. My grandmother used tissue paper in elementary school art classrooms, and there I was, discovering and using tissue paper for my graduate art class.

Did the fragility of tissue paper require copious trial and error?

When I first used the tissue paper I didn’t know what do with it. I tried to mimic the water mark and couldn’t. I was pouring carefully, using a watercolor brush, trying to get it right. But it didn’t work. It just looked like a mess. So then I got a water balloon, and put a pin in it, and let it slowly drop on the tissue paper, simulating a drip that might come from a leaky faucet. That’s when I realized, oh my gosh: it’s not a steady stream. It’s a drip process that pushes the ink to the outer edges. At that moment, I also thought about middle school. I always knew I was going to be an artist, and I remember looking up at the dropped ceiling and often there’s a brown water stain on the tile. In my boredom as a child, I remember thinking, what’s happening up there?

I think about how brown paper in front of buildings that are getting renovated gets wet and leaves a stain. You see it also in dried up puddles. It’s just so beautiful to me. It reminds me of the macro and the microscopic.

But aren’t there unique conservation challenges with such delicate material?

When I started, I was feeling a little self-conscious about tissue paper. It’s fun to experiment in art school, but the point is you want to know how to make a living as an artist. You want your art to sell, and the ephemeral nature is part of my work.

Creating an installation, a temporary sculpture, or even a performance is one thing. But a collector wants to know, how long is this going to last? Now I actually enjoy that part of my art, that feeling that makes folks a little wary and uncomfortable. Well, it is in a gallery so it must be worth something, right? But if tissue paper is on an elementary school floor of an art room, you just sweep it up and put it in the trash can. So my question as an artist is: What fuels our desire to preserve or protect something?

You know, we buy flowers— beautiful bouquets for hundreds of dollars sometimes. They die. They’re dead actually and we enjoy that. It’s something that we invest in. We spend hundreds of dollars on a delicious night out of food. What we appreciate and why we appreciate something is interesting to me.

What work are you presenting at the By The People Festival ?

The great thing about festival is that they specifically sought artists that have interactive components to their art. And what’s great about tissue paper is I can work with anyone from under 1 year old to over 100 years old. I use the most simple materials so anybody can interact and join in. I’ve done collaborative tissue quilt-making a few times, once at the North Carolina Museum of Art. You sit down next to somebody and you start looking at bits of torn tissue paper, which is interesting because of all the colorful stains. You pick your favorite color and you start connecting the papers with just a simple glue stick— Elmer’s. My materials are not a surprise or a secret. You’re sitting; you’re building, piece by piece. And as you get bigger, you bump into your neighbor on the right, your neighbor on the left, your neighbor at the table in front of you. You are joining and talking because the action is pretty simple, like a quilting bee.

Your mind kind of shuts off and it’s almost like a form of mediation. Some people are very quiet and work very meticulously. Some people are sloppier and just talking. But once you get in the groove of things, you have permission for your mind to take off a while, doing this task that is repetitive. But it’s also about that unity, that togetherness, that strength and power of joining together as opposed to being one piece flying off by itself.

How do you feel about being labeled a female or African-American artist (or both), rather than simply “an artist” as say, Picasso or Warhol is?

First of all, I am like Picasso and Warhol. I have vision and a dream and an overwhelming desire to create. I love that question, mainly because my favorite thing to say to picky young artists is: okay, you don’t want to identify as female? You don’t want identify as Black? Well, I’m going to apply to those grants, and I’ll take them. You don’t have to take them. Get in line for the generic ones. You don’t have to identify as anything. I know that there are historical inaccuracies and inadequacies. I know that it’s not fair and that other people are getting opportunities in this closed inner circle.

But these grants for artists that are underprivileged, or underserved, or minorities— whatever you want to call it— this is an attempt to level the playing field; to offer opportunities to see new perspectives; to honor different cultures; to embrace that otherness. It doesn’t matter if you don’t say a thing. You will still have some sort of identity, and for me, I embrace the myriad of my otherness. Recently, I began to identify as a queer artist as well.

One of my mentors is the contemporary painter Beverly McIver, who is a professor of art, art history and visual studies at Duke University. When I was 14, I used to sit in her studio and clean her paint brushes. She was the very first Black, female artist and professor that I met in person. I want to be that motivating source for someone else who has a dream and a passion.

What role should artists take in times of political and cultural division?

Artists are always at the forefront of revolution. They are the ones that push the buttons that make us stop and say, this isn’t right. They spark dialogue. We aren’t held back by, what will my town think? Am I going to get fired? Is this okay? Your job as an artist is to utilize your freedom to speak your mind and inspire. And at the same time, be ready for backlash, or the people that you are going to anger.

For me, my place of peace is always back in the commonality of us all. We can all agree that this is a watermark, right? I dislike you and you dislike me, can we find some common ground? Can we agree that this piece of art is beautiful?

Halcyon’s “By the People Festival” takes place June 21 – 24, 2018, at five official sites and numerous satellite locations throughout Washington, D.C. A list of more than 100 art installations, performances and talks, and to register for a free four-day pass, can be found here.

Click HERE to learn more about Halcyon’s “By the People Festival”.

MAYA FREELON ASANTE interviewed by Magic & Musings

17 Oct

M & M

Interview: Maya Freelon Asante on Being an Artist, Family Inspirations, and Working Outdoors

12:00 pm

Past Tense Present, 2015, 8.5”x18″, tissue ink mono/photo print
*All images are courtesy of Morton Fine Art.*

Today’s interview is with the incredibly talented creator Maya Freelon Asante, who creates bright, colourful, and complex artworks, sometimes combining printwork with photography. She dedicates her artwork to her grandmother, which you’ll find out a little more about in our interview, and comes from a family with its roots in the African American Impressionist movement. I love the colourful nature of her art, my favourites being ‘Dark Matter’ and ‘Divided/Whole’. Please read on to find out more about her story. Thank you for Morton Fine Art for providing images of her spectacular work to share with you today!

Magic & Musings:
For any readers who don’t know your background, do you want to tell me a bit about yourself and where you are today?

Maya Freelon Asante:
I’m an artist, a creator, a risk taker, and entrepreneur. I’m a Black woman; I always reiterate those two facts because I’m proud of them.
Magic & Musings:
If you describe your art style in three words, what would they be?
Maya Freelon Asante:
Bright, brilliant, kinetic.
Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into art? What first drew you to the field? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby?
Maya Freelon Asante:
I’ve always loved art since I was a little kid. It’s something that brought me peace and I could sit and draw for hours starting at about age five.
In middle school I had a teacher who saw my talent and really encouraged me by offering assignments that were challenging. I attended North Carolina Governor’s School and started painting, drawing, and sculpture in high school. I also discovered the artistic roots of own my family in high school. My great grandfather was a African American Impressionist painter named Allan Freelon and he worked during the Harlem Renaissance. I also apprenticed with a Black female artist, Beverly McIver.

Beasts of the Southern Wild, 2013, 62″x30, tissue ink monoprint & collage
Magic & Musings:
Did you have to find yourself overcoming any hurdles regarding your confidence when you first started displaying your art?
Maya Freelon Asante:
When I first started exhibiting my art I applied to lots of different exhibitions and got lots of rejections. I also got a few acceptances, which always led to other projects. I went straight from undergrad at Lafayette College to graduate school at Tufts School of the Museum of Fine Arts. I had a fast paced, accelerated journey through schooling so by the time I finished and I went straight into teaching at the college level. It was like I never left school. After two years I decided I wanted to try to make art full-time. I found art residencies, art grants, and living in a city that supports the arts are crucial to surviving as an artist. The three places I’ve lived in the last decade are Durham, North Carolina which has a great State Arts Council, Baltimore, Maryland which has MICA, and public art funds, and Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts offer really great opportunities for the emerging artist. I met Deborah Willis at Harvard, through the CCA conference. All of these opportunities helped build my artistic career.
Magic & Musings:
Of all of your work, what are you proudest of and why?
Maya Freelon Asante:
All of my artwork is dedicated to my grandmother, Queen Mother Frances J. Pierce and it’s either about living with her, remembering her as a child, using the tissue paper which I found tucked away in her basement, water damaged. She really had a huge impact in my creative life. And I’m proud of her life and legacy. Her sacrifices allowed me to be the artist I am today.

Handmade, 2013, 36″x37″, tissue ink monoprint
Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or particular album of music you listen to?
Maya Freelon Asante:
I typically like to work outdoors, or in a place that can accept a lot of water because my creative process can get really wet. I also like to work in studio spaces that are outside of the home, but I recently moved into a place where my studio is in my home and I need a space that’s away from my living areas. I like to listen to Spotify and the station that I’m really feeling is Janelle Monae, Phony People and No Name and The Internet.
Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?
Maya Freelon Asante:
Space to think and being quiet are super important when your are a creative person. That’s when I get my inspiration. If I’m stuck in a rut sometimes I write my journal or I’ll sit and meditate and be quiet and just let the creative process come through.

Inception, 2012, 90″x36″, tissue ink monoprint
Magic & Musings:
What are some things you like to do in your spare time when you aren’t working?
Maya Freelon Asante:
I love being outdoors, I love the water I like going on a nature walks and going to the ocean and going to the lake. I also love yoga and to go horseback riding.
Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium?
Maya Freelon Asante:
I started out doing drawing, painting, sculpture, and photography, and now merge all my media together. The two things that I’m still interested in learning are glassblowing and metal work.

Lost, 2015, 26.75”x17″, tissue ink monoprint
Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?
Maya Freelon Asante:
When I came up in college and graduate school, Facebook was just starting. So social media hadn’t popped off yet. I just started Instagram this year and it’s been interesting the amount of followers I’ve gotten in such a short amount of time.
Divided/Whole, 2015, 25.5”x19”, spinning tissue ink monoprint
Magic & Musings:
If there was one thing you could want to say to the world if you knew everyone was listening, what would it be and why?
Maya Freelon Asante:
The one thing I want to say to the world is there needs to be more love and peace for everybody. Be honest, forgive, and accept everybody for just where they are. I think we would have a much sweeter and loving place for everyone if we could do those things. Also we need to share our resources. There’s an abundance and just a few people are utilizing them. If we shared equally it would be a lot better for everybody.

Dark Matter,  2015, 55”x44”, spinning tissue ink monoprint
Magic & Musings:
What tools do you use to keep yourself organized?
Maya Freelon Asante:
Some may say I’m not organized at all, but I say there’s a method to my madness. What method you say? I’m not sure, I have to find it.
Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in the field?
Maya Freelon Asante:
I wish somebody told me that I could do whatever I want if I just focus on my energy on it. That it’s going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of self-confidence. I started out teaching thinking that I needed to teach in order to be an artist and that’s not necessarily true. If you take your business skills, you take your creative skills, and then you take your entrepreneurial skills, and if you can merge all those three together you will have ability to be great at whatever you do.

Letter to my Great­ Great ­Grandmother, 2015, 8″x21″, tissue ink mono/photo print
Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone read a book you have enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?
Maya Freelon Asante:
The books you should read are The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and Love, Freedom and Aloneness by Osho. Those are totally personal books that have nothing to do with art. The art books you should read are anything by Deborah Willis, Ways of Seeing by John Berger, and A Natural History of the Senses. A film I would recommend is Beasts of the Southern Wild. An album I would recommend is Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged – I know that album is old, but every single time I listen to it I feel totally renewed in my life purpose.
Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?
Maya Freelon Asante:
I would say to all Black female artists who are wondering – should they do it? Could they do it? Just go for it! You don’t have to be the best artist, you don’t have to be the most well-known, you just have to speak with the voice that God gave you and let it come out in whatever form. Come share your gifts with the world because we are waiting!

See You Soon, 2015, 42″x30″, spinning tissue ink mono photo print