Painter, sculptor, and poet Malaika Favorite has spent her career rendering the adversities of the Black experience using odd objects and often surprising substitutes for the stretched canvas. Favorite studied fine art earning her B.A. and MFA at Louisiana State University. She is also a published poet in multiple anthologies, and it is the relationship between poetry and fine art that is especially palpable in 150’s permanent collection room where Favorite’s piece the Furious Flower Quilt has been in residence since commissioned in 2004. The “quilt” is in fact not a fabric design, but a series of mixed media portraits. Like much of Favorite’s work, the quilt is an expression of Black historical progression.
In previous interviews you have discussed how the Black female experience is a major feature of your work. Has your perspective evolved over the course of your career as an artist regarding that identity?
I continue to emphasize the female presence in my art work. Here is an example from a show now on display at the West Baton Rouge Museum in Port Allen, LA. This is a show of washboards that highlight the importance of Black women as entrepreneurs during and after slavery.
One of the important themes within your work is the universal experience of suffering but through the feminine lens. I am thinking about a painting we have here in the gallery titled For My People as it depicts a kind of poetic African diaspora progression along the center panel with several femme figures. What other ways have you tried to creatively interpret this experience?
In my work I try to maintain a reminder of where we are as a people, where we have been, and where we need to go. I also explore this concept in my poetry. Here is an example from an up coming show. In these pieces I focus on people of color and people from the diaspora.
150 Franklin’s Furious Flower Quilt features 24 portraits of poets of the African diaspora. What was your approach to each of these portraits and what role did the poets’ work have in influencing your creative interpretations?
I did extensive research on each poet. I wanted each painting to reflect something about that poet’s work and life. I also included a poem by the poets in their portraits as a reminder to the viewer of what they gave us.
What were some of the challenges in completing a work of this size?
The difficult part was deciding what to say about each poet. I wanted each image to effectively portraying the essence of the poets represented.
How would you describe the differences between your early work as a painter and sculptor as opposed to your later work?
My earlier work usually focused on a single image or idea in each piece. In my present work I incorporate layers of meaning and symbolism that require a deeper investigation by the viewer.
Malaika Favorite will show new work at the Baton Rouge Gallery, Center For Contemporary Art, December 2-29.
Interview by Adriana Hammond