The Ars Poetica and Origin Story of Krista Franklin
An Interview for Sixty Inches From Center
At twenty-one, I stood at the crossroad of Hell
& Here, evil peering at me behind a blue-red eye. I armed myself
with the memories of Pentecostal tent revivals, apple orchards, the
strawberry fields I roamed with my mother & aunts in the summer,
& the sightings of UFO lights blinking in the black of an Ohio
nightsky. I am a weapon.
–Krista Franklin, from Manifesto, or Ars Poetica #2
I describe Krista Franklin as a poet and an artist only for the sake of offering an entry point into her work. It’s true–she is a fierce wordsmith and maker who moves naturally, yet distinctly, between words and paper. Those of you who know her work may be equally as familiar with the rhythm of her prose as you are with the beguiling tactility of her collages and handmade papers. You may know it at first sight or sound. But the initial encounter one may have with her work is simply an enchantment, a quick and captivating tool that forces a pause. Once you stop to stand still and sit between the lines or underneath the layers, there are pasts, presents, futures, and other worlds being agitated and conjured. With fluency, Franklin makes visible places and intelligences that are accessed by anointed scribes who have taken on the responsibility of translating the cultural and social detritus of humans, androids, and ancestors into a language that we can begin to understand.
Franklin is a storyteller and a vessel for well-known histories, things unwritten, and realities that have yet to be, which is why defining her as only an artist or a poet is inaccurate. Her work demands that those titles be interchangeable with historian, educator, caretaker, life scholar, ethnographer, anthropologist, and receiver.
Her flow between roles is mimicked in the work that she makes. In poems and on paper, Franklin reveals herself as a master sampler who builds bridges between a vast range of elements and references within a profound sea of influences and experiences. Each work comes with its own laundry list of liner notes and citations. To describe her work I could as easily cite the poetry of Fred Moten and Amiri Baraka, writings of Ishmael Reed, or the worlds of Octavia Butler as I could the collages of Hannah Höch and Romare Bearden, or the chameleon-like characteristics of Grace Jones or Prince Rogers Nelson. I could use the lyrics of Bad Brains, the album covers of Parliament/Funkadelic, the music videos of Outkast, or the echoing sound of voices that linger above 47th street in Chicago on any given day to bring it back into a place of Black sonic culture. Then, within the same breath, I could speak about the recurring lyrical and visual motifs that show reverence for the grace of Black women, youth, and street scholars while channeling the supernaturalness of veves, afro picks, cowry shells, and global Black memorabilia.
Then there’s how she lays plain the underbelly of these mondes, expressing truths often thought but rarely said, as messy and monstrous as they may be. She does not discriminate between the celebrated and condemned strata of the landscapes she traverses. Unflinchingly, she approaches them with an unconditional love and discerning eye whereas most people would be left stunned, shook, and fleeting.
By sharing her origin story, Franklin offers traces, not a blueprint. She is one of those artists whose style and technique is often imitated but never can it be duplicated because her radial disposition is organically constructed through insatiable curiosity, instinct, and learning through living, making her process and approach distinctly her own. The Krista Franklin blueprint can and will never be written down. Instead, she will leave you with shapeshifting breadcrumbs so mighty and nourishing that you’ll feel full while eventually realizing what you actually got were hors d’oeuvres. In our conversation she offers some insight into the seeds of her life’s work by starting from the beginning.
Read the interview with Krista here...
Photo Credit (top to bottom):
 Portrait of Krista Franklin taken during a visit with the Art Institute of Chicago’s Teen Lab, November 2016. Photo by RJ Eldridge.
 Ophelia, photograph and mixed media. Image courtesy of the artist.
 …voyage whose chartings are unlove (Detail), altered book and mixed media in aquarium, 2012. Image courtesy of the artist