Interview by J. Thomas Agnew
Photo by Emmai Alaquiva
Community is something of importance to Jasmine Green and it’s evident when you see the work she creates, the organizations she associates herself with, and how she works to find resources to help it to continue to thrive. In this interview, Jasmine shares how it’s important to support the upcoming generation with development advice, her residency experience in Wyoming, and more.
Your website states “Art For Black Women and Girls.” In what ways have you utilized your art for yourself and others on and off the canvas?
What sits at the basis of my work is the notion that white supremacy ideology seeks limitation; it wants to define anything both inside and outside of whiteness in its simplest form and it abhors the complexity of people that forces one to think with nuance. I experienced as a child and teen how and that even Black children are deputized to perpetuate those beliefs against themselves and others.
In my art, I seek the full humanization of my subjects. For me, it’s less about the physical body itself than it is the full person, and ways that I can bring the viewer into both her interior and exterior self. It’s the Black Feminine Body, the one that houses our brains full of thoughts and emotions that cannot be boxed in by others’ discomfort of them. It’s the Black Feminine Body that does not limit herself to being respectable and instead engrosses herself in her unbound authenticity. It’s the Black Feminine Body that is often acted upon but does not yield her full autonomy, and finds ways to exert her power and presence back upon the world. I try to bring that into the work that I create, as it’s a vision that is withheld from many of us.
What type of programming interests you the most in connecting your art with the community? What has been the response?
Public art galleries are of great interest to me and are something I want to try to work towards in the coming years. I helped to curate a public art gallery at the University of Pittsburgh called Black Lives in Focus in 2021, in which we displayed the works of artists and writers on the walkway between the Cathedral and the Chapel. The idea of putting art directly into communities in a way where it is directly tangible and existing outside of the walls of institutions, which (while working to reverse these perceptions) are often exclusionary to the communities they find themselves in has intrigued me since then. I’m not sure if the way I would go about it would be similar to Black Lives in Focus, go the route of community-based arts galleries which are doing so much of the inclusion and centering work that larger institutions want to replicate, or if it’ll be a separate path altogether. But, it’s something that I’m putting thought to.
What kind of business trials have you dealt with that led to you providing invoice information and talking about working for exposure?
The reason why I provide invoices and talk so much about exposure is following conversations I’ve had years ago with Celeste Smith. When I first met Celeste, it was still early enough in my art career journey that I honestly hadn’t realized that through creating and selling art, I was running an actual business. Even though I had done shows and done live-painting performances, I still hadn’t left the mindset that this was just a hobby. I remember clearly this one day when Celeste had called me during my lunch break and just dropped all these gems of wisdom. She gave me advice on how I can engender a sense of respect in my art by carrying myself not only as an artist but also as a businesswoman; the central tenet of it being settling for exposure as payment. I’ll admit that I still struggle with pricing my work fairly, as some tendencies die hard, but I still think back to that conversation and know that what I’m doing has real value. If anyone is going to advocate for my work, it has to be me first and foremost.
In experiencing multiple sides of the arts such as work for hire, commissions, curating and instructing, what are some resources you think are high needs for artists to navigate multiple areas of their career?
Artists need community. I say this often in interviews and in conversation but without community, I would likely still be painting by the side of my bed, making pieces that never saw the light of day. At every stage in my process there was someone who reached out and connected me with other artists, with curators, and with opportunities that would help me to continue growing. What artists need in Pittsburgh, and what a lot of vanguard artists have been putting in place is a stable and supportive arts community that celebrates those who not only transform the arts landscape themselves, but those who actively bring up the next generation. This is a beautiful time in the city where I’ve gotten to both watch and assist with, in the ways I’ve been able, this change where the city as a whole takes the artists who live here more seriously. It still has a long ways to go but the last few years have made me hopeful.
Additionally, artists need education around how to access funds, business and professional development opportunities, and chances to engage with many of the folks who make decisions around the arts and culture scene in Pittsburgh. It was a large part of what excites me about being the Director of Education at 1Hood Media. Being able to provide artist development programs like “Select” as well as helping artists individually achieve their goals around artmaking gives me the ability to give back some of the help I’ve received.
You’ve participated in the Exposure Tongue River Residency in Wyoming. Describe how that experience in connecting with a residency outside of Pittsburgh felt and what did you come home with?
It was an incredible experience for many reasons. For one, I’ve always been the kid who wants to be out in the woods, whether it was on camping trips or just sneaking off to walk around in the forest behind my grandma’s house and watch deer; so spending a full month in a state known for its natural beauty, where I could on a whim just go up the mountains or down into the canyons was exhilarating. I knew I needed a reprieve by the time the residency came around, but I hadn’t truly realized how much I was resisting slowing down until I got out there. Some of my best writing I was able to get done in moments where there was nothing to do but stare at the walls or sit in the quiet on the Bighorns overlook. Back in Pittsburgh, it feels like you get swept up into everything so easily; we bustle here in a way that is hard to recognize until you’ve been somewhere that moves at a different pace.
My time in Wyoming wasn’t perfect, as I did encounter racism during my time there (one particularly overt experience influenced a piece of writing that will be in my upcoming book). The lack of Black folks was something that made my time there feel a bit lonely at times (oddly, working remotely was one of the ways I felt rooted in my Blackness as I still got to see and interact with my team). However, I still honestly do miss Dayton from time to time. I met this artist out there named David McDougall who I had a wonderful correspondence with about the oddities in our work and the ways we try to experiment in our craft. All the folks at this café in Ranchester who, because the town is so small, remembered my face and invited me to all their community events. A dinner I had with this gathering of folks, both from Wyoming and not, just chatting about art and having a lovely time. I went into this residency looking to make the best of my time there and, while I know I put too much pressure on myself to have my book take some form by the time I left, I believe I did what I set out to accomplish, which was feeling that I gave it my best shot.
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