j.journey.jones is an artist who currently resides in San Francisco. Her work consists partly of exquisite installations that provoke questions about the profound nature of the world and life www.jjourneyjones.com. I chatted with her about her work, her life and why her journey is ongoing.
MICHAEL: Hello j.journey.jones. First of all, let's start with your cool name. Journey just says it all. Someone clearly knew what they were doing with that name. Has your journey thus far been enchanted or rocky?
j.journey.jones: Given those terms to choose from, I'd say enchantedrocky mostly. It has been filled with the normal ebbs and flow of life. Looking back, I lived in my bubble; an introvert from the start. I grew up an only child. Being an only child born with a creative spirit, it's not a stretch to say I was quite imaginative. I remember spending days outdoors in the hot summer sun of the Deep South, twirling around wearing my favorite dress. I liked to see it fan out, and then feel it wrap around me when I stopped abruptly. I loved singing tunes while “playing piano” on the steps of my grandmother's porch. And when I say on the steps, I really do mean playing the steps as if they were a piano. LOL. Imagination in full gear, I didn't go for toys or dolls. Instead, I sought opportunities that led to full expression. One of my earliest memories of expressing art visually, was in kindergarten. It was of an abstract finger painting in bold monochromatic bright red paint. A funny memory as I recall, because I also remember my mom being called to come pick me up from school. I was so 'engrossed in my work' (somewhat covered), that I had ingested some of the paint. Fast forward. After high school, I was accepted into art school, but left just as soon as I arrived. I lived a number of years working various types of jobs, traveled throughout the States, and searched for meaning in life. I don't know that I found it, but I later met the man who I would create a son with. It was the turning point; I nearly cracked. I was different, and on a journey to discover me, my community, my home. Eventually, I returned to finish a degree in art. I now communicate my findings through my work.
MICHAEL: Where did you attend art school? What did art school give you that you would not have gotten otherwise? As you know, not all artists have attended art school.
j.journey.jones: Yes, I'm aware that not all artists attend art school. I was one before I returned to finish a degree program. In response to a statement made by a self-described "uneducated" person, I recently wrote about my post graduate experience, as I questioned the benefits and challenges of a formal education. Here is a portion of what I wrote: "As one who had loved, lost, traveled and single-parented, I believe education is relative to one’s experiences. That said, I also believed I'd missed something and that a formal education would unearth, validate, ground, cement, or perform magic for me. I was wrong to some degree. Having graduated with honors, a formal education did do something. It confused me. I can attest to having lost a way of moving toward my path. I seemed to have forgotten how to trust my instinct. I now reside in the land of theory or pontification or whatever! I don't move the same. This is written for anyone who has a desire to be formally-educated. It can be done. However, one must never forget to keep being educated and the practical application of it in perspective. The ultimate goal is to move towards the path that feeds you wholly.” I have loads of questions; answers pending. I graduated from Mills College in California.
MICHAEL: What I've seen of your work online seems to be very organic and seemingly nature-inspired. How do you see it and what inspires you?
j.journey.jones: I deal with and express fissures that thwart communal development, growth and ultimately cohesion necessary for a collective effort that sustains itself. With my work, I explore the ways in which we destroy the notion of commonality in the name of success and attainment of our selfish desires. There are no references to nature in my work. My approach is layered and examines from a range of looking at ritual practices (e.g. female genital mutilation), through to our global concepts of success and how those ideas harm rather than sustain us, and the psychological impact that results. My intention is to push the level of discomfort experienced by engaging with the piece - from conception, through to its final iteration, asking the viewer to examine their individual practices and how they contribute to the decimation of community, and by virtue of this action, themselves. I am enveloped and inspired by the experience of rootlessness.
MICHAEL: Perhaps I'm seeing the destruction of what I perceived as nature. I love the installations. Is there a risk involved in pushing discomfort on the viewer? I experience this as a writer all the time. People don't want to face discomfort no matter how ultimately affirming and truthful it may be. Being the messenger is not a picnic.
j.journey.jones: There is an element of risk. That said, my former experience with rejection has primed me for if and when it happens again. Yes Michael, my work is laced with incidents that lead to destruction. And yes, people want to be comfortable, mostly. There are exceptions, but that's another conversation for another time. The idea of considering the viewer's ease of comfort is hazardous to a creative; that is if you're more concerned with their comfort. I am not. I'm primarily interested in being as honest as I can when approaching a piece. I firmly believe that when honesty is articulated, it translates and thus transcends. It therefore leaves the viewer with an appreciation that their intellectual capacity is fully honored. Given this theory, I was privileged to witness a viewer clutch their chest and weep while engaging with a piece. That same individual purchased the 'uncomfortable' piece later. Art does that; it moves people to respond and act. I am not saying art has to uncomfortable to provoke. It's just my aesthetic. All of it leaves me to believe that if we are honest, we must confess we want movement.
MICHAEL: What brought you from the Deep South to San Francisco? San Fran is such a cool town. Do you feel comfortable in your skin there?
j.journey.jones: It was an organic shift. I lived in Atlanta for several years, and wanted a change. A good friend of thirteen years and California native, suggested I give San Francisco a try. He felt that given my eclectic sensibilities, I'd wear the place like a comfortable pair of gloves. Though having been to San Francisco a couple years prior, I wasn't inspired to put it on my list of places to consider living. But after traveling west (this time by train), we hopped a plane to check out Las Vegas. It didn't fit, so San Francisco was it. And here I am. Given my proclivities to offbeat or broad thinking, this place was a sort of a hidden mecca that revealed itself to me. Measuring seven square miles, it's a small city comprised of colorful neighborhoods districts: The Mission, The Sunset, Chinatown, Northbeach, Soma, Bayview, Castro and more, that all add to the conversation of accepting difference, mostly. Although I do I do feel comfortable in my skin here, I am hearing my inner voice suggest it's time to plan the next leap.
MICHAEL: How do you do that? Most people have roots, commitments and issues that prevent them from even considering uprooting and just going somewhere else ... especially given the economy.
j.journey.jones: I break wide when the opportunity presents itself - kidding. As a writer, I'm sure you're aware of a movement of people living their lives independent of fixed places and things; travel hackers, language hackers, pro-travel writers and artists alike are redefining how/where they want to live. Some people are participating in the economy in non-traditional ways. For some it's random, others have definite goals. I know people who have been living while traveling non-stop for years. I am not saying it does not come with its own baggage, because it does and is not for the faint of heart. However, they are living the life they envision for themselves for now. As for me, I too have commitments that keep me moving a little slower than some. I have responsibilities that I must to consider, but I’ve learned to keep them lite where possible. I calculate and then leap, if possible. I do my best to keep my mind and heart open to what may come and when the momentum shift fits what I want, I go for it. My risks in this area in life are no different to me than the ones I speak of about regarding my art. It's all a matter of perspective.
MICHAEL: What would you say is the general reaction that you get when you tell people you're an artist?
j.journey.jones: It depends on the community of people I'm interacting with. I think the "general" reaction is a hidden fear from people outside the arts community. At first, there's a superficial, "That's nice! I wish I could draw, paint or do that. I loved doing ceramics in high school." But that sentiment inevitably fades to, "How do you do it? I mean art is hard to sell. It's got to be a tough life(?)." To which I smile and nod, while containing my judgments of their projection of fear. However, artists - when not overly competitive and thinking their ideas will be taken - and lovers of the arts are supportive, hands down. I think we feel deeply and find ways of giving support where possible. We are communal and find ways of mutually supporting one another.
MICHAEL: Your sculptural installations use very simple, humble materials, wood, wire, etc. Is humility part of the work or do you simply use whatever you can find and afford?
j.journey.jones: Yes, simple materials are used. And no, I don't use whatever I can find; there are careful considerations in all aspects of the process. In addition to using what the work demands, the use of such materials lends itself to a mode of restraint and self-editing that allows me to get to the essence of what I am wanting to convey in a work.
MICHAEL: What do you think about the art world and the art market and how they function? The super-wealthy buy blue chip art for investment while emerging artists struggle.
j.journey.jones: This is really no different from artists of yesteryear and their patrons. Those who could afford to commission art did and everyone else ate bread! Sadly enough, I think it's a microcosm of the greater state of the world economy as a whole; few have, most don't. Art and money equate business. Business is all about being in the business of tipping the bottom-line toward the side of being “In the Black.” Therefore, people go where the perception of money and Black (pun intended) is. I believe my art IS money (money itself being an idea) and I believe it's natural to want to err on the side of being in the Black, but not as a result of exploitation of others.
As our economic divide grows, there seems to be an unwillingness to understand the result the divide is not and will not be healthy for the super and uber rich either. We may get a clue once the primary consumer (the middle class) is completely out of the credit which fuels the purchase of toys that keep then stuck and thinking they have arrived - somewhere. The pinched, squeezed, crushed middle class must turn off the jumbo-tron screens, tune in to - not just TV shows about -reality, but think and act communally. However, if we focus on impassioned art lovers, who contribute through purchasing or other supportive means as you do, artists like me can and will sell more and thrive and make more art to speak to the masses about the state of human condition, however we articulate it.
MICHAEL: Finally, where are you now in your evolution as an artist and where would you like to go with it in the future?
j.journey.jones: I am unearthing my roots. I am on the path of eternal discovery. And with each discovery, I want to continue to expand my reach, both with my art and with work as a facilitator for others. It's my hope to be a true vessel, by which I am able to continue to produce works that are filled with honesty, provoke curiosity about the subject matter, are charged, and capture the attention (action if needed) by all viewers. In the now and future, I'm interested in collaborating more with other artists and welcome inquiries and proposals from any serious creatives. It goes without saying that having my work seen and collected by individuals and organizations is a key objective. I want to survive the now, to see and be seen in the future. Michael, I want to say thank you again for having this conversation with me. It was a pleasure working on this with you and I hope it’s not the last we ‘see’ or ‘hear’ from and about one another. I welcome the opportunity to support your efforts in the ways I can. It’s my hope that you meet your goals, now and always … Guidance, journey.
MICHAEL: Thanks, this has been great. I love the way you speak from a place of authenticity and strength. My very best to you.
Check out j.journey.jones and her work at www.jjourneyjones.com.