Jamaican immigrants come to New York City for a better life. Health care and food services are sought-after occupations for a secure income. A Jamaican father and son’s bond over art wouldn’t evolve into an exhibit, yet it occurred. Dane “DST” Thompson unveiled pieces from himself and his father, Michael “Freestylee” Thompson, in an art show titled “KIN: A Father Son Story,” which ran Aug. 25–27 at 72 Warren Street—in a posh neighborhood known for its boutiques and galleries. 

Brenika Banks photos

It is sometimes atypical for a Jamaican father to be an artist in addition to supporting his son’s artistic interest, and the show is described as a platform to strengthen and highlight Black immigrant artistry through a father-son shared passion. DST, 36, was born in Kingston, Jamaica and moved to Crown Heights, Brooklyn at two years old. The KIN art show preserves their strong bond, even after the passing of Freestylee Thompson seven years ago.

The Thompsons shared a love for movie posters. This inspired both of their art to depict poster-style elements. DST described his father’s style as “cleaner” while he adds more layers and characteristics to his art. DST creates mixed-medium collages in his unique pieces, which encourages the audience to spend time digesting the layers. “I was always interested in posters in the street and in the subway,” he said. “You’ll see them, and they’re torn a little bit – and there’s something underneath; it’s very New York.” 

This series, 12-plus years in the making, was embraced with plenty of love, respect, and support from the show attendees. Visitors were lively and excited to witness the pair’s artwork. People congratulated DST and took photos as the DJ played current hip-hop and reggae classics. His mother and aunt both beamed with pride as they experienced the Thompsons’ art together on display.

DST’s collages are made from illustrating posters combined with his custom patterns. “Keith,” which pays homage to artist Keith Haring, was influenced by a coloring book from Haring that Freestylee Thompson gave him. The base of the artwork starts with pictures and vintage clippings from Haring’s books. Next, a pattern made with DST’s initials follows as an additional layer of the collage. “There are things I thought were cool that would relate to help telling the story,” he said. DST included graffiti-related art in his “Keith” piece, similar to what Haring used to draw around New York City. DST described his layered motifs as “dense” which has evolved.

Freestylee Thompson’s five artworks were arranged to strategically hang on a wall together, opposite from DST’s works. He loves his father’s technique of simple, solid backgrounds, yet knew it wasn’t his style. “His stuff was more clean, more refined, more attention to detail,” said DST at the show’s opening. His father enjoyed speaking and bringing people together based on history, movies, and music. 

As visitors enjoyed the show and music, DST reminisced about “Eek A Mouse,” his father’s piece he resonated with the most. “I really like this one because this is an artist he and I used to listen to a lot,” he said. Mouse was a Jamaican music artist who made animated, over-the-top tunes. DST said he and his father adored Mouse’s music because it was out-of-the-box, nontraditional type Jamaican songs. 

Happier times connected DST deeply to his own piece titled “Wuz Good.” The picture reminds him of being happy with life at that time. It depicts his version of the Mona Lisa with a hoodie, spraying a heart over his logo. “I was in a very happy place when I was making [‘Wuz Good’].” 

“Deep Water Carter,” a newer work, is an admiration piece of rapper Lil Wayne. DST views Wayne’s lyricism as very creative and relates to him doing unexpected things. For example, people don’t expect Lil Wayne to be a skateboarder because of his rapper persona. In parallel, people are shocked to learn DST is an artist based on his looks. “We’re common in that way where it’s not expected of us to do certain things, but we really have fun doing those things.” 

DST has fun collecting vintage clippings that echo his piece “The Perpetrator,” featuring vintage Ronald McDonald. “This has clippings from the old McDonald’s—you know, what you [used to get] in the [restaurant’s] tray.” He will go as far as searching on eBay for anything old school he believes will complete his vision. He isn’t afraid to include anything eye-catching in his works. 

DST was happy and overwhelmed by different people in his life, from his job to family members, supporting the exhibit. He relished witnessing everyone experiencing this multigenerational bond artistically and predicts his legacy will be conveying how art can transform lives. “I want to show people that it is possible—art can take you somewhere.” DST believes in endless opportunities, teaching subsequent generations, and continuing a legacy that began in generations before. These are the keys that open doors to futures. 

For more information, visit https://www.freestylee.net/ and www.instagram.com/dst46

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