1. Please tell us where you are from and how you got to where you are today?
I was born in Ocala, Florida and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Photography from the University of Central Florida in 2012 and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art from Florida State University in 2015. Some of my favorite things are puppies, comic books, the color pink, and radical feminism. I currently work for The School of Art and Art History at the University of Florida.
2. Please describe your work
Through the use of video performance, multi-media sculpture, photographic imagery, and spatially engaging installations, I explore the concept of feminine identity through the lens of the contemporary black experience. My work often deals with the intersection of feminism and race, and how the two are constructed through the investigation of social, familial, and gender roles. Additionally, my work considers the way in which personal identity is assembled through one’s body image and racial identity.
3. What does being an “interdisciplinary artist” mean to you and your practice?
Interdisciplinary to me just means not letting a medium dictate how I make my work. I think it’s very important to let the work tell me how it wants to be presented. I pull a lot of influence from several different kinds of art and I just think its more important to focus on what is the best medium to get the message across instead of trying to fit the message into one type of medium. My background is in photography, so a lot of my work usually uses that as a jumping off point but hardly ever stays there. I like to think of myself as a “lens based artist” but I don’t know, it doesn’t really roll off the tongue as well as interdisciplinary.
4. What is your creative process like?
My process is all over the place. My work is pretty politically driven, so much of the time I’m pulling from current events and everyday experiences. I write notes down in my phone of potential ideas or words or song lyrics that spark something. I am not the kind of artist that sits down and goes “I am going to make art today”. I find that I don’t work well when I force it, I just let it all come out kind of whenever it wants to. I like to work with intention.
5. Which current art world trends are you following?
Honestly the stuff I am loving the most right now is just ‘the weirder, the better’ I like things that are non-traditional and interdisciplinary. I am also loving artists that are finding new and interesting ways to display their work outside of a traditional gallery setting. I think making art accessible to everyday people is the most important thing we can do as artists. So talking about social issues and making that work available for people to see is crucial.
6. What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?
Every time I make something I think about what I am trying to say with it. Yes, bringing attention to a subject is important but so is having an opinion about it or telling a story with it.
7. A lot of your work has an autobiographical aspect. Was there been a shift or change in your life or work that led to what you’re making now?
When I first started making art I thought I wanted to do commercial photography. After doing that for a while it really wasn’t fulfilling. I couldn’t think about doing it long term and being happy with myself or my future. Too many things were happening in the world that I couldn’t ignore and I felt like I could do something better with my life and my art. So many of the things I wanted to talk about and make art about were things that were affecting me as a person and it felt more natural to me to use my physical body and personal experiences to show that.
8. Can you speak to your own relationship to risk and sacrifice, and what risks have you taken.
I think a huge risk for me was finally deciding to make art for myself. So much of what I was doing and worrying about was if other people would like what I was making. I had to reevaluate why I was doing what I was doing and why it was important to me and I decided that being true to myself was more important.
9. What are you most proud of?
Honestly I am most proud of the confidence I have gained by making work. I am quite introverted and shy but my way of stepping out of my shell is making the art that I make.
10. Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events?
I have some things in the works for next summer but I’m always making things and trying to show them.
11. What are you listening to at the moment?
As far as I’m concerned Janelle Monáe’s “Dirty Computer” is the only music that exists right now.
12. What piece of advice has influenced you the most?
Just being told to stop worrying about what other people think of my artwork. Its less important for me to impact 10,000 if 10 people really got what I was trying to say. For me, my art has always been about the concept and the message and sometimes that message is only for a certain audience of people.
13. If you could be any fictional character, whom would you choose?
I would absolutely be Lunella Lafayette! She is a 9-year-old little black girl from the Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur comics, (she’s Moon Girl), and the smartest person in the Marvel universe! She doesn’t take crap from anyone and her best friend is a tyrannosaurus rex. So like, like goals.
View more of Jillian’s work here.