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A Conversation with Jackie Milad and Maya Freelon Asante

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Baltimore artist Maya Freelon Asante has a new solo exhibit called VOLUME at The Stamp Gallery at College Park. The exhibit is the result of a residency at the gallery and is intended as a site-specific installation and an interactive opportunity for visitors to add to a growing tissue paper quilt. In the following interview, Curator Jackie Milad and artist Maya Freelon Asante discuss the residency, exhibit, and philosophy behind the project.

Cara Ober: Hi Jackie and Maya. First of all, congratulations on the exhibit! It looks spectacular. I am curious about how the residency program at The Stamp Gallery works. How long does it last? What is its purpose? And how are artists chosen for it?

Jackie Milad: The residency length is six weeks and the format is flexible, depending on the artist’s project and availability. Artists are asked to use the gallery as a pseudo studio/work space to create a site specific interactive installation. This could either mean an artist provides “office hours” throughout the run of the six week exhibition – or one week installation time with artist led “workshops” held throughout the course of six weeks.

Invited artists are given space to create large scale installation, as well as an opportunity to engage, and even collaborate, with our campus community. Ultimately The AIR program falls in line with the gallery’s mission to serve as a “laboratory” for artists to experiment with ideas, and emphasize the importance of process to contemporary artistic practice. Ideally resident artists will take advantage of the Stamp Gallery’s prime location in the student union, and the fact we have a glass wall, the length of the gallery, facing out onto the center of the building. The Adele H. Stamp Student Union is the hub for campus activity and involvement, nearly 16,000 people walk through the student union’s doors per day!

Cara Ober: Maya – What appeals to you about this particular format for an exhibit? How does it change the scope and scale of your work? What does collaboration with the public do for your work?

Maya Freelon Asante: I loved the fact the that the Stamp gallery has glass windows that open up into the student center. I wanted to create an installation that encouraged people to look up and see what’s going on in the gallery. Art that intrigues investigation is my favorite type of art! Interactivity is also an element I want to explore, so I’m inviting the community to add on to the tissue paper sculpture, which will eventually grow outside of the gallery space!

CO: Jackie – As the curator, what are the appeals and the challenges of an exhibit that evolves over time? What is your role in this process? How can you be of support to the artist?

JM: I see myself more as a facilitator, because I want artists to lead their own residency experience—it would be stifling to add curatorial agenda to this kind of open ended process. My job is to allow enough space and materials for the artist to see their vision come to fruition.

CO: Maya – How did you come to use tissue paper as a medium? What does it allow you to do that other mediums do not? On one hand – visually it can be so dramatic, almost looks like glass sculpture and on the other hand, it is such a common and accessible material, so I wonder if that opens up possibilities for creations that won’t happen in paint or other 2D materials.

MFA: My grandmother was a school teacher for over 40 years, and, when I was in graduate school at SMFA Boston, we were roommates. Granny Franny was a woman who kept everything and when you asked about it, she would say “I was saving it for you!” Her basement was filled with items dating all the way back to her childhood. One day milling for inspiration, I happened upon a stack of colorful tissue paper that had been stained from a water leak. The rest is history! What fuels our desire to preserve or protect something is a question I always ask myself. I also love that tissue paper forces us to confront what we consider “high” and “low” art. We are all but fragile beings on this earth, just like tissue paper flying in the wind, but when we join together there is strength, power and beauty.

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CO: Jackie, what do you see as Maya’s unique offerings for the audience at The Stamp? How is her work different than past shows? What message or ideas do you want students, faculty, and visitors to come away with? What do you want them to notice?

JM: I first came across Maya’s work when she participated in the Corcoran Gallery and WPA’s “Take it to the Bridge” program with her piece Ubuntu. The sentiment of this work, “I am because we are” speaks directly to my vision for AIR @ Stamp Gallery.

The communal element of Asante’s VOLUME project is unique to the Stamp Gallery and I am excited to see what happens. I want visitors to the gallery to see how art can build and make community – it’s that simple!

CO: Maya, at this point in your career, you work with commercial galleries, museums, and also academic non-profits like The Stamp. As a busily working artist, what do you like about exhibiting in these different types of spaces? How do shows like this create opportunity for growth? Where do you see your work going at this point – in terms of content, scale, or media?

MFA: I love Artist in Residency programs!!! It’s the only way I can get work done. Having the space, resources, support and time to create is so essential to my process. I need time to think and in a new environment it’s always fresh. Site-specific installations are so amazing to do in new spaces. AIR programs are crucial to creative collaborations as well, working with students I always get great ideas for future projects. Unlike galleries or museums, which are expecting a specific and detailed finished product, AIR programs just want you to be who you are as an artist, with no pressure or stress about what exactly you’ll be creating. That freedom allows for the best work.

Maya Freelon Asante – Fine Artist from cdsavoia on Vimeo.

AIR @ Stamp Gallery: RESIDENT ARTIST MAYA FREELON ASANTE
Presents VOLUME, AN INTERACTIVE INSTALLATION AND EXHIBITION

Open to the public February 6- March 7th
Opening Reception: Thursday, February 6th, 2014 5-8pm
Closing Reception & performance: Thursday, March 6th, 2014 5-8pm

VOLUME is an interactive exhibition created by artist in residence, Maya Freelon Asante. During her collaboration with The Stamp Gallery, Asante will transform the gallery space into a colorful explosion of kinetic tissue paper art. The site-specific installation invites visitors to join in on the creation of the artwork. Everyone who enters the gallery is welcome to add to the tissue quilt, which will grow over the course of 5-weeks. The community working together will resonate inside and outside of the gallery space, as the tissue paper swells into the atrium inviting more to come and partake in the process of living art.

AIR @ Stamp Gallery is a new annual initiative, where the gallery invites local artists to create interactive installations for the duration of six weeks. Maya Freelon Asante is our first participating resident artist.

Maya Freelon Asante is an award‐winning artist who creates unique water-stained colored tissue paper sculptures that resemble quilts, geological forms, and visualizations of human experience. Asante was praised by the International Review of African American Art as a “vibrant, beating assemblage of color.” She was selected by Modern Luxury Magazine as Best of the City 2013 and by the Huffington Post’s “Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Art Makers Under 40 You Should Know.” Maya has exhibited her work nationally and internationally including Paris, Ghana, and US Embassies in Madadagascar, Italy, Jamaica, and Swaziland.

For a glimpse of Asante’s work, check out this video documenting a past project with the Corcoran: http://vimeo.com/45939223

The Stamp Gallery is dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary art with an emphasis on the work of emerging and mid-career artists. The gallery supports contemporary art that is challenging and/or academically engaging and that addresses broad community and social issues. The gallery space can be used as a laboratory for emerging artists and curators to experiment and work through their ideas, emphasizing the importance of the process to contemporary artistic practice. The gallery serves the public by providing exhibitions of social responsibility and artistic substance, as well as by offering an educational forum in which dialogue between artist and viewer and art and community is encouraged.

The Stamp Gallery is located on the first floor of the Adele H. Stamp Student Union-Center for Campus Life, at the University of Maryland, College Park. The gallery is free and open to the public Mondays-Thursdays 10:00AM-8:00PM; Fridays 10:00AM-6:00PM; and Saturdays 11:00AM-5:00PM. For more information about the exhibition and the program log on to http://www.thestamp.umd.edu/gallery or contact the gallery at 301-314-8492 or stampgallery@umd.edu.

Image Gallery photos by John George of The Umbrella Syndicate.

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