Finding Strength In Fragility: Meet Maya Freelon

Jan 27, 2020

Durham artist Maya Freelon’s large tissue paper installations have hung in the halls of the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building and the North Carolina Museum of Art. She has received commissions from Google and Cadillac and was recently named one of five young artists to watch during Miami Art Week 2019. Her techniques transform tissue paper from schoolhouse craft to fine art and create community in collaborative quilt-making workshops.

Her work is deeply tied to her family heritage, a lineage which includes both sharecroppers and pioneering African American artists. Her mother is acclaimed jazz artist Nneena Freelon. Her father, Phil Freelon, was a renowned architect celebrated for his work on the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and her paternal great-grandfather, Allan Freelon, was an acclaimed impressionist-style painter during the Harlem Renaissance.

Her rich family legacy has shaped her identity as an artist, but so have difficult personal losses. Her infant son, Wonderful, lived only three days, and her first marriage had an ending worthy of a soap opera. She found strength and eventually, love, in her nanny-turned-partner Jess. She joins host Frank Stasio to discuss the joys and sorrows that have defined her life and her art thus far.

Her installation, Shifting Seasons, is on display at The Art Box at North Hills in Raleigh now through November of this year. Maya will sign copies of “Southern Women” by the editors of Garden & Gun magazine at CAM Raleigh on Thursday, Feb. 20.  She will be a panelist at WINi 2020, a summit about female leadership and community, in Raleigh on Sunday, Feb. 23. Her solo exhibit at CAM Raleigh begins in July 2020.  Jess Van Hook will host a talk entitled, "The Truth about Preschools and Nannies" on Feb. 15th.