Malika Jackson’s colorful paintings on display at Evanston Art Center explore race and spirituality

Chicago Southside artist Malika Jackson’s artwork exploring serenity, faith and hope is on display at the Evanston Arts Center this fall.

“Whisper of a World Without Words,” curated by Evanston artist Fran Joy, is open at the center from Sept. 10 to Oct. 9. The exhibit uses stylized realism to portray the quiet strength of individuals and to tackle issues like race. 

While Jackson often works with clay, wood and paint, the Evanston show is almost entirely composed of her paintings. This exhibit marks the fourth and final show featuring BIPOC artists in Evanston Art Center that Joy has curated. Next year, the space will be used for exhibits commenting on contemporary issues, Joy told The Daily.

Audrey Avril, manager of exhibitions at Evanston Art Center, said she enjoyed the vibrancy of Jackson’s two-dimensional work. She said the work resonates with the heart and mind. 

“I think her work, especially this work, has a lot to do with stirring emotions and stirring the conscience,” Avril said. “As soon as you look at the work, it’s bright and vibrant, sort of arresting. And it makes you more open to the fantastical elements of the universe.” 

For Jackson, the exhibit reflects the marginalized position of Black women and how their voices are not always able to be heard. It is also a testament to their strength, she said. Her three-piece painting, “Quiet Storm,” is a tribute to her daughter — who she said is a quiet but powerful person. 

Due to space restraints, this exhibition is an abbreviated show of the full “Whispers of a World Without Words,” first displayed at Hyde Park Art Center. Poetry that originally accompanied many of the works is not on display in Evanston, according to Jackson.

“If (viewers) have the poetry that goes along with it, it would give it more depth, and they would really be able to understand what some of the pieces mean to me,” Jackson said.

The only sculpture included in the show is a colorful assembly of thin bodies decorated with beads on their heads. Jackson said she likes to use sculpture for the depth and emotionality it adds to her work. 

As Joy reflected on her last curated show for this year’s series of BIPOC artists, she said she wanted to offer opportunities to emerging artists that were lesser known on the North Shore. 

“I wanted to bring in different artists than what the art center (has) normally brought in,” Joy said. “It’s been a labor of love. It’s been interesting. It’s taught me a lot as a curator.”

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