Malaika Favorite: The Alchemist

Feb 07, 2020 — Sep 19, 2020

Malaika Favorite’s found object paintings seem to burst with an energy that conveys a sense of a life lived so well it verges on the mythical or magical. Somehow, seeing her work gathered en masse strengthens this impression, as does her merging of contemporary art and folk art practices. Favorite’s synthesis of folk and contemporary is akin to alchemy; the medieval pseudo-science that strove to transform base metals into gold. Her approach is born of expressive utility that defies categorization, making it difficult to identify her work with a particular genre or media. Her larger objective is to convey a holistic sense of herself. Whether an individual work of art is dealing with an act of God, a social injustice, family relationships, music, faith and so on, her indomitable vibrance as a person shines through, using specific objects and images to address universal human concerns. For example, instead of canvases, Favorite often paints on old washboards, a potent symbol of grueling labor and of her own family support structures. Favorite’s grandmother and aunt were laundresses and her mother ran the household. These associations serve as a conceptual foundation representing the constancy of familial love through the object of the washboard that might also be layered with other themes like love of country, faith, and racism. The image of a hog similarly has personal resonance for Favorite. Her father raised pigs at home for food and extra income. Poems by the artist integrated into her paintings, as well as several meditations about the symbolic value of the images and objects in her work complement this exhibition.


Malaika Favorite, born the second of nine children to Amos and Rosemary Favorite, is an artist and poet who hails from Geismar, Louisiana. Her father worked at the Ormet chemical plant, and took on the formidable task of raising nine children to great effect. As an eleventh grader in 1965, Favorite was the first African-American to integrate Ascension Parish Schools when she transferred from the segregated Prairieville High School, to Dutchtown High School. Her integration, which was tumultuous, was on a volunteer basis and her parents had to agree to let her attend a white high school.

Favorite earned her BFA and MFA from Louisiana State University where she lead an active on-campus life, often delivering speeches in opposition to Ku Klux Klan leader, David Duke, at Free Speech Alley near the Student Union. At that time she did mission work with the Baptist Student Union and tried to join the Black Panther Party after she encountered racism within the Baptist church. Over the years, she taught at Grambling State University, Louisiana State University, and at the parish level in Napoleonville and Baton Rouge. Before returning to Geismar, Louisiana to care for her aging mother in 2016, Favorite spent close to twenty years living in Georgia with her husband, the author and poet, Anthony Kellman.

Favorite’s work resides in the permanent collections of the Morris Museum of Southern Art, Absolut Vodka, the Coca-Cola Company, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, Atlanta, and others. She is an artist member of the Baton Rouge Gallery and exhibited her work with many institutions including the Alexandria Museum of Art, Lisanby Museum (James Madison University), The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, West Baton Rouge Museum, and McKenna Museum of African-American Art. Favorite was also the recipient of a Puffin Foundation Grant, Porter Fleming Foundation Grant, and a Fulbright-Hays study tour, “Art of India.”


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