Kicking off the first installment of RESPECT. Magazine’s Artist of the Month, visual artist Jaszmine Hawkins made the cut for April’s choice. Hailing from the small town of Freehold, NJ, where she currently resides, the Jersey-bred artist utilizes her work to create pieces that invoke emotion while simultaneously appeasing the aesthetic needs of art appreciators. An strong example of perseverance, Hawkins allows the roadblocks that she faces on her creative journey to positively mold her work and help her grow as an artist. From creating her own version of Wonderland to depicting the death of Eric Garner, you never know what’s going to end up on Hawkins’ canvas. And she would like to keep it that way.
Tell me a little about your background in art.
We can start with when I went to college. When I went to New Orleans, I didn’t take my first two semesters seriously. I’m not going to blame [Hurricane] Katrina on it; I’m not going to blame anything on it. I just didn’t have the drive that, I guess, I have now because I think I wasn’t as confident with what I was producing at the time. It wasn’t until I got on academic probation, and came back home, just to go back down there, that I started kinda finding my style when it came to the big-lipped characters that [followers of my work] are familiar with.
What are some common themes in your work?
Women. Women are the common themes. I mean, I paint all sorts of backgrounds and such, but it’s something about women. An abstract view on women. You know, breaking down emotions. Breaking down the mental state. Breaking down that you could look so fabulous, but feel like…feeling like shit.
Portrait of Gazi Kodzo
How has your work influenced others?
Honestly, I don’t know. If I were to guess, I would like to believe that it has, more so, inspired people to pick up a paintbrush or get creative again. But as far as influence, I really don’t know. Hopefully whatever they see at a show or seen in personal space will just inspire them to go out and remember that everyone’s creative to a certain extent. You know, different levels.
Hawkins pictured with actress Dascha Polanco holding ‘Rabbit’
Describe a time when your work opened your eyes to something new.
These are really good questions! I would have to say it was ‘New York City Strife’ when I was still in New Orleans. I remember I was living in the Garden District and I was…let’s just say I was ‘up’ for a few days. I was on Adderall, at the time, and I remember kinda utilizing a different style. It wasn’t anything about people, I wasn’t doing a portrait or anything like that. It was just I wanted to paint a depiction of how I saw New York in certain moments in my life. That’s when I realized, “Hey, I might be onto something!”
‘New York City Strife’
What was that something?
I was onto something new. Maybe it’s just not big-lipped characters. I had to remind myself that before I did the big-lipped characters, I was doing realism. I was doing this in high school. I strayed away from it because I found it to be boring. Once I started doing landscapes, I was just like, “You know what, I think I’m a little bit more well-rounded in art than I would like to believe.” That’s what that was.
Being that you hail from a small town, you know how important it is to have idols and muses that lift you up out of that world in order to stay creative. What are some characteristics of the type of people you picture looking up to you?
I imagine me; the little black token girls that were like me in middle school, elementary school, and high school. I imagine them, or any female of color, looking up to me because if I can do this, they can too. At least I hope that when they go down the halls of Freehold Township High School (or wherever) and they’re seeing everything that’s not representing them and who they are in this kind of community, I hope that they see me, wherever I go in life, and they realize, “Oh my God, she’s from here too?” I hope those are the girls or people that look up to me.
What’s the perfect creative environment for you to create?
Ironically, the place that I hate the most: my hometown. As much as this place drives me crazy how complacent people are here, it’s quiet, it’s around everything I need to be around to create, the liquor store, and some food that I missed when I was in New Orleans. And, it’s a little pricey, but at least I still have the opportunity to get to Philly and New York with ease. So yeah, good old Freehold.
Name some artists you would love to collaborate with.
Definitely Kara Walker. Takashi Murakami because I need to know what drugs he’s on because he’s amazing. Ron Mueck. I’ve always wanted to get into sculptures and if I were to get into sculptures, I would want him to teach me how to do it. Whether [the sculptures] are big or you can fit it in between your fingers, the detail that this man has, the craftsmanship in his work is astounding. Those are the top three. Everyone else passed away.
How have you worked through struggles to continue working on your craft?
I don’t claim being bi-polar, but the two years that I dealt with it felt like a drying out from life. With the medication that they put you on to being in and out of the hospital for three months, through that I realized that I had a break down. I realized that I don’t need medication to be the person that I was before everything started happening. Pretty much a mixture of, and I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but indulging in vices to the point that you realize that you don’t need them like that, spirituality, family, friends, and anything you could find. If it’s just stepping outside for a second and realizing the sun is shining, that helps. That’s what keeps me going. There have been so many times where, I’m not going to say I wanted to commit suicide, but I just wanted to give up. I just wanted to do a job that I wouldn’t be happy in just to survive and die, you know? That’s not how I want to go about life. I would rather struggle for success and happiness.
What are some projects or shows you have coming up?
As far as shows, April 16 I’m doing Pancakes and Booze in Tribeca. Then, I have a group show in Philly at Tattooed Mom on May 31. Aside from that, I just plan on hitting up the Brooklyn Flea Market. Basically any kind of art vendor stuff I can get myself into because I’ve been in hibernation for this past winter and it’s time to show people what I’ve been doing. With projects, I want to really start getting into this installation piece that I have a sketch of. I just really don’t know how to go about it so that’s going to be one of those longer projects. Otherwise, just little things like perfecting painting the tote bags I sell, making acrylic roses made out of scraps, and maybe get an Etsy shop.
How do you plan to fuck shit up in the art world?
No warning. I like being a quiet storm. I really do. I like people thinking, “Oh, she’s back in the ‘burbs. She just paints.” Like, I’ll sit on TC (Tiny Chat) just painting. People will be like, “Why is she painting like a mad scientist?” Well, because I want to have a tornado of work. Different sorts of styles, I want people to know you can’t fit me into one category. I’m not an Afro-futurist. I’m not a black artist. I’m an artist. I respect my craft. That’s how I’m going to do it and making the connections I need to make in the art world, but my way. I don’t want to go to another pretentious gallery where they’re trying to tell me, “Well, maybe if you come back with this kind of style because this is the kind of style we have.” No. I’m going to find a place that takes every single one of the paintings that I paint. From little tattoo shops to making connections with people that are opening a coffee shop somewhere in Brooklyn or Queens, I will be there. Waiting.
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