art: an interview with visual artist kamille jackson

December 11, 2014

At a moment in which social media directs and shapes daily interactions, artist Kamille Jackson converges the digital with her traditional practices of painting and drawing. Pieces she begins on canvas or paper she then scans, converts and distorts in Photoshop through a series of interventions that draw on both pop art and psychedelic aesthetics. A Northern Virginia native now living in Richmond, she recently graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts. There, studies in communication design encouraged her to toy with the aesthetic boundaries of both commercial and fine art practices. What’s emerged is work that curves, pops, repeats, and dives–colorful, bewildering, and concerned with identity and personal narrative. Read on as I discuss with the artist her inspirations, techniques, and the music that helps her escape.

By Justin Allen, AFROPUNK Contributor

Your pieces often borrow lyrics from different singers and musicians–Valerie June, New Young Pony Club, Crystal Castles. What attracts you to the music artists you quote?

Kamille Jackson: I’m attracted to different artists for different reasons. At times, I just identify with the background of the artist. Valerie June is a Southern woman whose music pulls from a variety of genres I grew up listening to: gospel, folk, rhythm and blues.

NYPC and Crystal Castles have this fusion sound to their work. I usually end up feeling as if I’m in a trance after listening to it. I enjoy escapist music. Additionally, their songs have powerful lyrics. I like when lyrics are orchestrated in a way that makes me feel that I needed to hear them.

The colors and patterns in your work call to mind, at once, psychedelic and pop art, and you’ve expressed a liking for both. Given that these styles formed in previous decades, how do they fit into the contemporary moment?

I see aspects of these styles everywhere. Album artwork and music imagery are still a big playground for both. I see parts of it in Mark Ryden’s image for Tyler, the Creator’s Wolf album–the Limited deluxe edition cover. Leif Podhajsky’s work has psychedelic attributes.

The advent of the Adobe Creative Suite has made things easily combinable. Images pop up all the time on Tumblr that usually feature some odd fusion. Irony and illusion, which were subtle aspects of each movement, are apparent in our culture everywhere today. It’s evident in projects like Phillip Stearns’ Glitch Textiles. Not only do I see aspects of these styles in the field of visual imagery, but in the way we approach our humor as well.

Many of your pieces start as sketches or paintings, then you introduce Photoshop to alter or distort them, even creating multiple pieces from one word or phrase. What inspired your inclusion of the digital into the work?

Sometimes I put pieces that I know are primarily illustrative into Photoshop just to see what will happen. I like the idea of deconstructing something I’ve hand-drawn, or created traditionally, within a matter of seconds in Photoshop.

I think the tendency to create multiple pieces from a singular source stems from my restless Myspace days. I would edit profile elements all the time. I loved that I could change them so quickly and so frequently.

You also describe your work as remarking on mass media. What interests you in mass media?

Mass media is exclusive and inclusive all at the same time! Being sensitive to imagery, I’ve always taken in weird details of it from a young age. I remember details from the commercials for the NOW That’s What I Call Music CDs–how things were always floating around–and the composition of popular magazines and catalogs. Mass media is so pervasive, and has this way of making you believe whatever it presents. Making art is a way for me to make sense of it all.

Your hand-drawn text is unique at a time in which many advertisements employ minimalist, san-serif font. What makes text interesting?

People don’t really think of text as art. It’s primarily utilitarian, used to spell out brand names and inform people about products: chiefly commercial. However, to me words are powerful. It’s fun to blend its commercial history with concepts that aren’t commercial, those that embrace the outlier, those that embrace the individual and their journey.