Conversation with Krista Franklin

I met with the incredible Krista Franklin back in July. I asked Krista Franklin to describe her work. She described it as  “pretty diverse. Visual artist, poet, sometimes performer (mostly around the poetry or poetics, papermaker...visual art includes papermaking, collage, letterpress, [and] sometimes bookmaking every blue moon.” She is also the writer of the chapbook Study of Love & Black Body (Willow Books), and most recently Killing Floor (Amparan). She also held a position of artist-in-residence with Arts and Public Life/Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at University of Chicago’s Arts Incubator.

I asked her what drew her to collage in particular. She explained: “I can draw but I’m not the best drawer. So it was a natural response for me to use magazines to get the most realistic image that I wanted to have. So that’s what led me to it; the idea [of having] things look as realistic as possible, [but] not being able to render them myself. So [it was about] figuring out ways to snatch the ideas I needed in a direct kind of way.”

I asked about her use of media, including photos. She told me, “That’s evolved over time. My initial impulse was to have a realistic image…I have before used a lot of antique photographs in my work especially in the early phases…I was using a great deal of antique photographs of people of color... As well as popular culture figures who have passed away that I had [a] deep appreciation and admiration of… I was using their iconic faces or iconic histories to pull at things and to herald them… Much of my early work especially dealt with pulling from the ideas and theories of the Black Arts Movement in particular, and how people of color (specifically black people in this country and across the globe) have been represented in very insidious ways. What I sought to do with my art, particularly visual art in this case, was to create images that would resist those ideas, that were antagonistic [to] those ideas, that showed us the way I saw us: as full, human, beautiful, complex, and worthy [of being] loved…

We Wear the Mask is a recent series for me, particularly about women...There’s a lot of things happening... I became very interested in Afro-Surrealism in the past three years...I wanted to push the envelope of my collage [practice] into the surreal realm, to play with the idea of disruption and [the] idea of the full imagined space from the weird way my brain works. I was thinking [about] a lot of ways in which women are seen as dangerous, gold diggers, dangerous creatures. I wanted to pull and play with some of those concepts, blending the female body with animal, plant, other organic spaces in the world, fusing those all together. The ideas that I was getting at had to do with negative perceptions placed on women by history, which ultimately lead to misogyny and violence against us, seeing us as somehow tricky or slick. I wanted to push the envelope about that around the [woman] body.

"So the title, of course, is taken from [the] Paul Lawrence Dunbar poem, [a] very famous poet. He’s from the same city I was born (Dayton, OH). His house is there, it’s a historical monument. So also [I’m] tipping my hat to Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s [idea] of wearing masks to survive in the world as a person of color... and [how it] plays out as a woman of color, as a woman in the world in my experience.”

That’s just a small section of a wonderful interview. To check out Krista Franklin’s work, go to her website: