Most people see a water stain and wonder how to get rid of it. Artist Maya Freelon Asante spied a stack of tissue papers marked by water in her grandmother’s basement and an art form was born. “A dried coffee spill on a napkin that has left a perfect ring; that’s beautiful to me,” says Asante, who uses high-quality tissue paper—the everyday variety doesn’t bleed—to create quilt-like works such as the three-story installation that hangs in the United States Embassy in Madagascar. With Asante’s enviable gene pool, including Grammy-nominated jazz great Nnenna Freelon and award-winning architect Philip Freelon, it is no wonder that creativity runs through her veins. “I grew up enveloped by the arts and discovered both my heritage and my passion at the same time,” she says. Asante, whose work can be seen at Morton Fine Art and who counts story quilt painter Faith Ringgold as a mentor, loves pushing the boundaries of materials and using them in new ways. “I often find myself improvising with color, light and shape,” she says, “kind of like the way a jazz musician scats on a solo.”
LX: Work approach:
MF: I believe that artwork should bring more peace and joy to the world.
LX: Dream collaboration:
MF: Sam Gilliam, a brilliant color field painter. Our styles are similar in that we both love working with color abstractly and on a larger scale.
LX: Local hot spot:
MF: Morton Fine Art; the owner and chief curator, Amy Morton, has a keen eye for art and design and knows how to make them flow seamlessly.
LX: Current projects:
MF: I just finished Scattered to the Wind, and I’m working on a multimedia theater project called The Clothesline Muse.
LX: Fantasy dinner party guests:
MF: I’d invite all the artists in my family to talk about the creativity that has been passed down across generations. My great-grandfather Allan Randall Freelon Sr. was a painter, photographer and printmaker, and my great- great-uncle Erwin Goodwin traveled as a valet to England. We still have his journal entries and pressed flowers.