For his Senior Project, Malik Basnight ’16 is creating four chairs, each based on a meaningful concept connected to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community. He’s currently hard at work building intricate pieces representing dressing in drag, coming out, and marriage equality, as well as a memorial to those who have died from AIDS, under the guidance of Visual Arts teacher Jon Mulhern.
Malik says he’s always been interested in building things, and he’s relying on his skills in woodworking, sculpture, welding, and design to develop the original works. Eventually, he hopes to either sell the pieces or donate them to an LGBT community center.
For the drag chair design, Malik said he was inspired by actions men take to contour and feminize their bodies, and the chair back is modeled after an 18-inch corseted waist. The legs will start at the “thigh” and move down to the “feet” in stilettos.
The coming out chair will be purposely banged up to convey the stress, anxiety, and vulnerability people feel during the experience. The piece will be made entirely of metal and “almost set on fire and destroyed.” Malik will add a spotlight to convey what he describes as being interrogated and uncomfortable.
For the marriage equality chair, he is working with an antique set donated by a Ross School parent to give it a sense of “foreverness.” The piece will have two seats, share a back and two legs, and be constructed on a seesaw that will require two people to balance it out. “People will be seated back to back to symbolize that love is blind. You marry for love and what’s inside, and not what’s on the surface,” Malik explained.
The final piece will be a moving tribute with names of Ross students’ family members and friends who have passed away from AIDS-related illnesses. Malik is modeling it after famous memorials such as the Vietnam Wall, and says it will be dark and ominous. The chair back will be 7 feet tall because he wants people to feel “dwarfed” by its significance.
Malik expects to have significant portions of all four chairs completed by the Thanksgiving break. One of the difficulties will be finding the space to complete the assembly of the large pieces. He’ll tackle some of the work, including the welding, in the parking lot by the Tennis Center. Other tasks such as engraving and carving, he’ll accomplish in the Innovation Lab @Ross with help from his other Senior Project mentor, Dr. Dave Morgan, director of Innovation Lab.
Reflecting on the meaning of his project, Malik said he wanted to capture the emotion and feeling of these very important issues, and to recognize the sacrifice and effort of people in the LGBT community who fought for equality and “paved the way” for him and the younger generation.
Malik plans to continue to design furniture, perhaps drawing inspiration from buildings he will see in Greece, where he will pursue an independent study course in February. He’ll also study architecture and engineering next year in college; he is considering attending Drexel University, Union College, or Skidmore College.