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Artist Talk: Cornell Jones - Delta Arts Center
  • 03 Mar 16
    • AUTHOR Magalie Yacinthe
    • CATEGORY Blog

    Artist Talk: Cornell Jones

    CORNELL JONES

    Works during the Invitational 2016 include Temple (2014, 17 ½ in x 11 1/2 in, mixed media collage, $375), Rise (2014, 9.5 in x 16 in, mixed media collage- mulberry paper, watercolor, marker, cut paper- $250), and In Us (2014, 18 in x 8.5 in, mixed media collage- mulberry paper, watercolor, cut paper- $250)

    1. Tell us about yourself. Who you are and what you do? What’s your background? How do you identify; is cultural identity at the front of your work/process?

    I am an artist and elementary art teacher in Fayetteville North Carolina. I was born and raised in Alabama and attended college at Troy State University.I received an MFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts. After graduate school I spent several years in New York City working in art organizations, social work agencies and community organizations. I identify as a Southerner and as an American of African descent. My cultural identity influences both my artwork and the process through which I create. It is extremely important to me that I reflect my community, experiences and beliefs in the work that I present.

    2. For decades and particularly during this country’s civil rights movement, many high profile artists of color were expected to represent that struggle in their work. When they did not they were often called out and criticized by peers and movement leaders for not moving the cause forward. Do you feel it’s your responsibility to promote social change, cultural reflection, race, gender, class issues, etc. in your artwork?

    I feel that it is my responsibility to first and foremost promote the truth that I am fully human. As a part of my experience social change, cultural reflection, race, gender and class issues may make their way into my art. In the past I have used my art to promote these ideals. It is my responsibility to use my art in the most positive light as possible. My art is an extension of me.

    3. What other ways can artists/activists engage the movement outside of developing lyrics, music, images that speaks specifically to the movement?

    Artists can engage the movement by actively participating in communities. Teaching, volunteering, and building relationships with those that will benefit from their presence. It is not enough to make art. One must find a way to engage with people in a way that is in line with their gifts, personality and ambitions.

    4. Black women have always been an integral part of American civil rights movements, but women have not always received the credit for their work. Which black women do you believe currently embody the spirit of the black women activists of the past?

    I taught for several years in high poverty elementary schools. I prefer to say that the Black women I worked with best embody that spirit. They are building relationships, setting high expectations and deal daily with the rigor of what it means to educate Black children within the culture of our society. They do this with little to no fanfare, due respect or accolades. Activists definitely play an integral role in movements, but those that directly serve the communities are on the front lines. These women often find themselves standing at the crossroads of generational changes, societal ills and shifting values, but still must prepare young Black children for the world that awaits them.

    5. How do artists with less exposure engage in the movement? In what ways could their lack of public exposure work on their behalf?

    I do not feel that exposure is necessary to become engaged in the movement. Art is not the only way to participate. If one wants to participate artistically then they should start on the local level and use the internet as well as social media tools to present the work. The freedom that comes along with less public exposure could possibly reduce the amount of obligations to people or institutions that an artist might have.