Utilizing Art to Promote a Positive Change
"Creating art is essential to my being and has been since I can remember. Cultivating ever growing ability to communicate through this medium is my on going quest." - Jean-Pierre Verdijo
Jean-Pierre Verdijo was born December 29, 1973 in New York City during an exciting time in the arts, during the dawn of pop art, beginning of hip hop, disco, punk, there was also a huge underground party scene. It was when being an amazing artist was equivalent to being a rock star. A time period that Keith Haring was creating graffiti art all over New York City and right before Jean-Michel Basquiat started painting. When Jean-Pierre was just 2 days he was placed into foster care.
After 4 1/2 years he was reunited with his mom and lived in New York until he was 10. Jean-Pierre’s time in New York continues to influence him as a person and artist. One of Jean-Pierre's fond memories was when he used to casually roller skate into galleries on Columbus and Broadway in New York to check out the art. During his childhood his only experience with creating art was in elementary school. After that he didn't pick up any kind of art again until he started painting skateboards with Paper Mate White Out when he was around 15 years old.
At 10 years old Jean-Pierre and his mom left New York and headed to Toronto where they became homeless. From Toronto they went to Chicago, Houston, and Miami all of which he experienced living life on the streets. In Miami his mother was finally able to get a disability check that she applied for many months earlier. The first thing she did was bought Jean-Pierre a skateboard. His mom also asked him where he wanted to live and he said California. This is what he was seeing in the Thrasher skateboard magazine. He read that if you wanted to become anything in skateboarding California was where it was at. This is where he pursued skateboarding a became an amateur competitive skateboarder. Skateboarding played a role in how he dealt with the difficulties he faced as an adolescent and he still skateboards today.
"Being an artist means forever healing your own wounds and at the same time endlessly exposing them"
- Annette Messager
Jean-Pierre's best friend Mike Rafter who happened to be a professional skateboarder gave him his first paint set when he was 20. At 20 Jean-Pierre travelled to Arizona to meet his father for the first time. After this time is when Jean-Pierre really started focusing on developing into the artist he is today. He spent 8 years at Sacramento Community College taking every psychology and art class he could not to earn a degree but to work on himself and overcome his life struggles. This is something that most artist have in common is that they struggled through a life challenge at some point and through art it how they heal.
Jean-Pierre has an extensive list of solo and group exhibitions in California, Texas, and New York. He also has a collaborative show coming up on Jan 18th at Halcyon in Austin. Please come out and experience Jean-Pierre's work in person. He curates the Soma Vida Gallery in Austin where has several of the pieces in this blog on display.
What inspires you as an artist?
As cliché as it must be, one of my greatest inspirations of all time is nature, not just its aesthetic qualities like its expansiveness & layers, and penchant for geometry, but also in the way it moves in seasons, the diversity in which it promotes itself, how it just exists without judgment. Maybe most powerful for me is it’s relentlessness. It keeps pushing constantly, it always wins. I’ve taken notes on modeling myself in that quality. Human culture and individual beings are a constant reminder of our potential for expression and source of creativity. The friction of humanities reach for it’s dignity in a atmosphere of deadly exploitative political theater, hypocritically divisive religious dogma, and the cooperate choke-hold on our culture is the most fascinating thing I’ve ever had the privilege to be apart of.
"The Way (Tao) that can be named, is not the Ultimate Way." - Lao Tzu
Who inspires you as an artist?
In music I find it in the freestyles of hip hop greats like Black Thought of The Roots and Kendrick Lamar, and also in underground artist like One Man Army and Supernatural. The production of J-Dilla and Kanye West, the old Jazz Masters, the skateboarding of Mark Gonzales, Tom Penny or John Cardiel. Honestly it’s everywhere now, It’s unlocked and so many devoted artist, athletes, musician, facilitators, chefs, parents are just taking living to a level that elevates us all. I enter the state of flow in only a few circumstances. Most often in my art studio, on the dance floor, in a moment of contemplative prayer or in service to my children or while volunteering with under privileged youth.
"I am inspired by love. For 12 years, I have explored the effects of love over fear. That curiosity has taken me as far away as India and as close as observing my own breath. In art therapy, I found my personal healing and an ability to help young people." - Jean-Pierre Verdijo
Jean-Pierre's work is bold yet soft, it's powerful while adding eloquent detail, it makes a statement while expressing beauty. When I first observed Jean-Pierre's art I knew it was good but I needed to take a closer look. He has so many pieces of art that it was overwhelming for me to completely get a grasp on the depth of his creations. When you look at many of the pieces they have so many layers both in materials used and in meaning behind each piece.
What is truly brilliant about Jean-Pierre's work is that it takes you as the viewer where you want to go. He studies the complexity of the world through his art and brings attention to different powerful topics including feminism and racism. He has may pieces of art that are in multiple pieces including his work called Inheritance which has 108 pieces each with a different religion displayed which is located in the slideshow below.
He is also an artist that focuses on sustainability where he uses discarded and up-cycled materials. Please check out his artist statement to find out more info on this topic.
"Reality is wrong. Dreams are for real." Tupac Shakur
"The message in art is about creating your life. Creating your myth, your rules, your community, your sacrifices, your ambitions, your goals, and ultimately your way, your path."- Jean-Pierre Verdijo
What does being an artist mean to you? The message is to create a structure to engineer your own freedom. That structure being high and transparent enough for the public to witness your struggles and your victories. It also means to take the stage in a sea of actors, and hold true to my authenticity, that's what being an artist means to me.
The words BEAUTY and POWER are on repeat in my head currently.
I would recommend looking at each piece of art I have on this blog post and check out his website as well. Pay attention to the detail of each and how elaborate they are. When I started checking out Jean-Pierre's work the geometric shapes the small squares, and big circles, nature, clouds, are what stood out. Many of his pieces include various texts from different languages behind the imagery. You really can't compare a previous piece of art to the next which means that as an artist Jean-Pierre continues to expand and grow.
"Do you want to know what my gift is? What makes it all worthwhile for me?" Love… - Jean-Pierre Verdijo
What's interesting to me is that by writing this blog about Jean-Pierre and his struggles that you can really feel his transformation. He started off in the most difficult situation you could possibly be in when you're an infant entering this world and it didn't get easier for him. He just persevered and worked harder to do what he loves which is make art. If you like a piece of his art please consider purchasing one since he does make his entire living off of his beautiful creations.
Check out Jean-Pierre's website here and follow him on Instagram here. Check out up and coming collaborative Instagram account with exciting things to come called the artisofthebluerose
By getting to know each artist it really helps me understand their work better but also myself better. I'm so grateful for each artist that lets me in to understand what inspires them.
Each artist that I introduce I would like to inspire just one person.
Jessica Oleksy is passionate about photography and creative people. Through this blog she will introduce you to the people that inspire her.