Visual artist Jasmine Murrell sees beauty, power, potential and sometimes strangeness in her people. Her loving eye catches the wide angle and celebrates it all.
Murrell uses paint, sculpture, photography, video, and found object art to explore global commonalities. Rendered in compelling colors and textures, her uncommon vision has struck a common chord. At age 34, the Bedford-Stuyvesant resident is one of the youngest emerging artists ever to debut a solo exhibition at the Center for Arts and Culture Skylight Gallery. She’ll welcome guests to the opening reception for “Provocative Insights,” her compelling retro-spective, on Saturday, ,June 27 at 6 p.m.
Although this will be Murrell’s first solo show in New York City, she’s also flown solo at the jRainey Gallery in her native Detroit, the Pounder-Kone Art Space in Los Angeles, and at the University of Texas. New Yorkers have had the pleasure of seeing Murrell’s art in MoCADA’s “Post-Millennial Black Madonna” exhibition and at the 2009 National Black Fine Art Show. Her work has also been exhibit- ed at Detroit’s African-American Museum, the Toronto Biennial and the Preto Gallery in Salvador, Brazil, among other venues.
“My work is highly influenced by African aesthetics and the function of ritual objects in the African Diaspora,” says Murrell. “I strive for my work to heal, to discover, to question, to invoke.” She hopes to hit this mark in her Skylight Gallery show, which will feature work from three series:
*”Forbidden Foods” explores maturity, guilt and sexuality and their historical association with food. Juxtaposing painted images with photographs on weathered surfaces, Murrell examines prevailing notions of beauty and perfection. The pieces declare that real beauty and sensuality encompass change and that cracks, crevices, marks,folds and bags are honorable, personal mementoes.
“I have developed a series of images utilizing models ranging between 68 to 95 years of age,” says Murrell. “The physical evidence of time is ignored by consumerism, which is obsessed with newness. The social value of renewal and youth creates conflicting tension with the physical realities of change and the inherent ability of all living things to age and transform.”
*”Finding Home” considers the wide range of meaning of “home” in photographs. Murrell worked on a yearlong commission in South America, documenting living structures while traveling through Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and other countries, living with over 25 different families across the continent, collaborating with local artists and working with local youth.
Also featured in this series are Murrell’s concrete and wire sculptures evoking urban disconnect, as well as aged wood salvaged from her time in post-Katrina New Orleans and used as a quiet custodian of untold stories of suffering. “I was commissioned to go down to New Orleans and create work from leftover trash after the storm,” Murrell said. “Sometimes my work haunts me because of the subject matter.”
*”The Hoods” are rough-hewn sculptured pieces addressing limited perceptions of the Black community from within and without. Murrell examines how the exaltation of negative images can shroud bright light, overshadowing self-validation and potential. She finds encouraging resistance, however, in places such as her adopted home.
“I think Bedford-Stuyvesant has become a dreamland of Black creative thinkers and artists,” Murrell says. “I’m happy to walk down streets and see all the beautiful shades of brown and I hope it will stay this way. I really need to be around my people sometimes to create. We are the inventors and we’ve got so much juice! It keeps me thirsty for more. Also, I’m from Detroit, so I need a little shouting sometimes to let me know I’m here on the planet!”
Murrell is using her time on the planet to
investigate and celebrate. Prior exhibitions have included “Possession of Fela” at actress C.C.H. Pounder’s L.A. gallery, in which Murrell celebrated the music, mission and legacy of the Afrobeat king. She has also presented her “Chocolate Breast” series, with female breasts constructed of the candies and sweet confections bearing names that women have been called. “And before that it was the ‘Hottentots Venus’ series,” she says. “I believe every Black female artist has done something about her!”
Murrell credits her parents with instilling in her the “can-do” creative spark.
“Much of new my work is an entanglement of my experiences down south and abroad, encapsulating my nascent experiences during my dad’s construction business on desolate Joy Road in Detroit,” Murrell said. “Both my parents were very creative hippies from New York and they made practically everything we owned. My mom made my clothes, toys and even our shoes, because feet ran big in our family. She was the one to introduce me to other cultures and ideas of beauty, such as wabi-sabi from Japan. Around the house would
be found pieces of beautiful, rusted metal and odd-shaped wood.
“My father, on the other hand, was an educator, but his passion was recycling old cars and fixing them up. He did it in a way that was most creative! He would combine two cars together or turn a school bus into a mobile home. They both encouraged me to do whatever made me happy, but I can’t say they were excited about the idea of me going to art school!”
We’d bet that Murrell’s early career accomplishments have now given her parents cause to be excited. She hopes that New York art lovers will come out to form their own opinions.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy to be able to share my art with my beloved community!” says Murrell. “Art has been a tool for archiving history and culture and influencing just about everything we use today. We choose who represents us, or we will have that chosen for us. New Yorkers take for granted all the incredible art events around us. Going to an art show is most often free, and it’s with you forever!”
“Provocative Insights” will run through September 26.The opening reception on Saturday, June 27 is free, open to the public and starts at 6 p.m. All are invited also to an artist talk on Saturday, July 25 and a youth workshop on Friday, July 31.
The Center for Arts and Culture Skylight Gallery is at 1368 Fulton Street in Brooklyn, third floor, at Restoration Plaza. Take the A and C trains to Nostrand Avenue. The gallery’s regular hours are Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m. For more information, call the gallery at (718) 636-6949 or visit www.jasminemurrell.com.