Maya Freelon Image Gallery

Maya Freelon: Greater Than or Equal To 

Image Gallery

Reset, Spinning Tissue Ink Monoprint, 2019

Between Us (2), Spinning Tissue Ink Mono/Photo Print, 2019

Wade in the Water / Come to the River Series, Performance Photography Series, Photo by Chris Charles, 2015-2017

Wade in the Water / Come to the River Series, Performance Photography Series, Photo by Chris Charles, 2015-2017


Community Tissue Quilt, Tissue Paper and Adhesive 2020

 On August 29th, 2005 Hurricane Katrina began bearing down on the Gulf Coast. Massive amounts of water breached the levees and flooded the city of New Orleans. The same week I found a stack of colorful tissue paper in the basement of my grandmother, Queen Mother Frances J. Pierce. A leaking pipe that had long since been repaired caused the assorted colors to be beautifully and intricately marked by water. The center of the paper was white while the edges revealed a concentrated line of color. It held telltale signs that water was once here. The discovery of this stack of “bleeding” tissue paper provided a powerful allegory for what was happening to Black people in New Orleans: I saw water literally moving people of color to the margins. The use of delicate tissue paper in my work continues to represent the resilience of people deemed insignificant, and the power of our collective unity.

Katrina was the first time in my adult life that I connected the effects of a natural disaster to deep-seated institutional racism in the United States. The tepid response from our national leaders and the ignored forewarnings from environmental scientists had the greatest impact on the poorest communities, which consisted mainly of Black and Brown folks. Although the total death toll for Hurricane Katrina is unknown, it was officially listed at 1,833 people, 93% of people who died unnecessarily were Black and 40% were elderly. Many of the deceased did not have access to transportation, did not have the financial means to evacuate, and/or were disabled. Losing that many Black people at once was in part racism and part socio-economic disparity, as well as the failure of the government and state officials to protect the citizens of the United States.

Fifteen years later, I am still working with “bleeding” tissue paper and our country is experiencing a global pandemic that is repeating a similar story of marginalization, with a significantly greater impact. More than 184,000 people have already died from COVID-19 in the U.S. and African Americans continue to experience the highest actual COVID-19 death rates nationwide—more than twice as high as Whites and Asians. The healthcare disparities are yet another reminder of how pervasive and ingrained institutional racism is.

Greater Than or Equal To is about using familiar art materials that challenge the unfair value systems that exist in Art and the world. It is also about using the same questions to reveal the ugly truth today that Black lives, and Black art, are not valued as equal. Do you think this is just? If not, what are you going to do to change the equation?

-Maya Freelon

Ancestor Ascension II, Tissue Ink Monoprint, 2019

Synergy, Vanhook Farm, Cedar Grove, NC, Photographic Print by Kennedi Carter, 2020

Vanhook Farm is “a bucolic place where she and her children spend a lot of time. The farm–Black-owned, Freelon points out—has long been in the family of her partner of two years, Jess Vanhook. The location is both a solace and a symbol for Freelon. ‘I’ve thought about our ancestors and how for them, possessing the land means that you are taking control of your own future,’ she says. ‘You’re asking the earth to produce something for you that has value. I realized that I was doing that as an artist, cultivating something that’s made by my own hands, determining my own value and worth.’”

-Liza Roberts, WALTER, September 2020

Beam, Spinning Tissue Ink Monoprint, 2019

Between Us (1), Tissue Ink Mono/Photo Print, 2019

Historical Significance, Tissue Paper and Adhesive, 2019

Wave, Tissue Ink Monoprint, 2020

Perimeter, Tissue Ink Monoprint, 2017

All images are courtesy of Maya Freelon