Tag Archives: Schwanda Rountree

MAYA FREELON ASANTE in the International Review of African American Art

11 Jun

Scattered to the Wind

Maya Freelon-Asante Ventures into Performance Art

by Schwanda Rountree

Maya Freelon Asante collaborated with the bay breeze sweeping through the busy, commercial district of Baltimore as she presented a debut piece called Scattered to the Wind.   The kinetic art performance at the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower rained, colorful free-falling art down on all below.

View of Maya Freelon Asante's Scattered to the Wind performance. Photo credit: Chris Metzger.

View of Maya Freelon Asante’s Scattered to the Wind performance. Photo credit: Chris Metzger.

Those who had come to participate in the performance were led by the artist through an interactive experience highlighting both the fragility and strength of art.  She urged them to surrender to the act of letting go and to the beauty of now — the now of that sunny, April 27, 2014 afternoon.

Poet Maya Angelou’s description of her namesake Maya Freelon Asante as “visualizing the truth about the vulnerability and power of the human being” was on vivid display that day.

View of Maya Freelon Asante's Scattered to the wind performance. Photo credit: Chris Metzger.

View of Maya Freelon Asante’s Scattered to the wind performance. Photo credit: Chris Metzger.

What made the Scattered to the Wind additionally captivating to the participants who have followed her career was that it was her first performance. “I had to call my extraordinarily talented art buddy Holly Bass, just to make sure what I envisioned was technically an ‘art performance,’” Freelon Asante says.   Artist Holly Bass’ endurance, seven-hour performance last year at the Corcoran merged legacies of the Hottentot Venus, the godfather of soul and much more.

Freelon Asante has previously  collaborated with choreographers “but this was very different,” she says.  “I know tissue paper lends itself to movement and I’ve played with that in the gallery and theater setting, but being outside and orchestrating the whole process was different.  I’d say it was a collaboration between myself and the Baltimore city that day, which was amazing!

“I wanted to push the boundaries of how and where we view art. Challenging what fuels our desire to preserve or protect something. My vision was beautiful art raining down on Baltimore city’s knowing spectators, Lexington Market cruisers, liquor store locals, lost tourists and orioles fans. The Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower − I’ve had a studio there for the last 3 years − is at the intersection of so many different types of folk. I wanted them all to witness and experience this letting go as a gift.  Free falling art for all.

“And each tissue piece I dropped was special a momento of my history and process, it could have been from my grandmother’s basement, during a residency at Skowhegan, from my installation in Madagascar… I was in a sense giving away a piece of myself. I even handed out special tissue bits to people who didn’t catch one. That part reminded me of communion, which I guess it was!”

Freelon Asante’s current major project, the Clothesline Muse, incorporates  dance, live music, spoken word, interview text, video and interactive art.  The cast will include six dancers, a percussionist, and Freelon Asante’s mother, Nnenna Freelon, the well-known jazz singer as “The Muse.”   Her daughter’s colorful tissue paper art will hang on the clothesline like laundry drying in the sun.  These sun-and-wind dried, tissue-paper “clothes” will be a vibrant resonance of the Scattered to the Wind performance in Baltimore.

Let go with me
Make room for joy!
The weightlessness
of forgiveness
Seeks peace
With love

—poem by Maya Freelon Asante

See the Scattered to the Wind performance here: https://vimeo.com/66331082

Schwanda Rountree is an attorney, art collector and principal of Rountree Art Consulting.