The reign of the painting has fallen. With increasing social and political awareness in contemporary art, the era of painting is being ushered out the door. Discourse surrounding the history of painting has prompted the expanding popularity of non-traditional media—such as textile, assemblage, and video art—as a means of deviating from centuries of artistic elitism perpetuated by the traditions surrounding painting. Maya Freelon, an award-winning contemporary artist, employs the use of ink and tissue paper to create colorful abstract visual sculptures. As described by the late poet Maya Angelou, Maya Freelon’s work “visualizes truths about the vulnerability and power of the human being.” Her multi-colored tissue paper sculptures are autobiographical. Every work presents a unique commentary on Black womanhood, using imagery constructed around themes of the maternal bond. Freelon’s work is deeply rooted in various societal roles she has taken: the role of the mother, the role of the daughter, and the role of the sister. Each identity contributes to a wider community, becoming the sustenance of the Black community.
This project is meant to further the rejection of elitism in art by furthering the rejection of traditional art forms. The canvas was transformed into a tee shirt and the dyed paper was transformed into various types of multi-colored yarn and string. Through incorporating the new materials into the work, this project also builds on more identities that intersect with the ones presented in Maya Freelon's original work. The tee shirt may represent identities related to street culture; in which fashion has become one of the dominate forms in the visual arts, instead of painting. Though Freelon's use of dyed tissue paper also demonstrated a rejection of painting, the use of multicolored yarn and string was an attempt to add two other identities to her work through historical contexts. The first identity is that of Black slaves in the United States who were forced to farm things such as cotton, which is what the string is made from. The other identity is that of women who are traditionally given the role of weavers and textile-makers. Textile-making as a form of fine art has often been discredited because it is traditionally considered a "women's job" and not real art.
My own experience of weaving and stitching Begin/Again onto the tee shirt revealed to me how harsh and grueling the process of textile-making can be. My hands became worn down. I have calluses from trying to thread the string through tight spaces, small cuts from being poked and scratched by needles, as well as burns and rashes from pulling on itchy yarn; my back became sore from hours and hours of stooping over my desk stitching over and over. I can't imagine how awful something like this would have been to do every day.