Wk 10 – Artist Conversation – Ja’Rie Gray


Exhibition Information

Artist: Ja’Rie Gray
Exhibition: My Complexion
Media: Oil paints, canvas, charcoal, paper, panel
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery East
Websites: http://jariegraymycomplexion.weebly.com http://jariegrayblackface.com/JG.html
Instagram: Artist has no Instagram at this time.

About the Artist

Ja’Rie Gray is a CSULB graduate student in the Drawing and Painting program. Ja’Rie is from Los Angeles, and has been creating art since she was five years old. However, she feels that artists can and should always learn more about their craft. This is why she is passionate about pursuing her college art education. Ja’Rie finds immense inspiration from her own culture and life, particularly her childhood. Her art beautifully conveys these inspirations, as well as social messages tied to them.

Formal Analysis

Ja’Rie’s My Complexion exhibit is a very cohesive collection of images that powerfully convey the same message. They emphasize this message through their formal qualities, particularly color, line, and rhythm. Perhaps the most dominant feature in the majority of Ja’Rie’s pieces, as well as a major component in portraying her exhibit’s message, is color. Ja’Rie’s pieces, which feature a variety of African American women mostly against bright colors and geometric patterns, utilize color to the emphasize the beauty of their subjects. The rich colors of the women’s skin tones, which serve as the main theme of the exhibit, are enhanced by the bold and brightly colored backdrops and elements. Also notable are the geometric patterns and shapes that are intermingled with the women in the pieces. Perhaps also serving as an element that provides emphasis, is the line found in these geometric patterns. The organic, sinuous lines and curvatures of the women’s bodies are emphasized by the sharp angles of geometric patterns. Ultimately, all of these elements provide each of the pieces with a sense of rhythm, from their contrasting colors to their variously shaped, intermingled lines.

Content Analysis

Ja’Rie’s exhibit aims to showcase the discriminatory attitudes of cultures towards skin complexion and race. Her pieces convey this social theme through their portrayals of both the devastating impact of discrimination, and the beauty of skin tones. The use of bleach as a key theme in her pieces showcases the devastation that results from discriminatory attitudes, and awakens viewers to this highly relevant social issue. The bleach represents the inability to accept one’s own beauty as a direct result of discriminatory perceptions of skin tone. Ja’Rie’s pieces also showcase the beauty that contradicts the misguided and false beliefs that dark skin tones are less beautiful than light ones. The portrayal of African American women in rich color and organic line against bright colors showcase their immense beauty. In evoking all of these feelings, Ja’Rie aims to elicit reactions of complexity from viewers, in which they feel both devastated from discriminatory attitudes, and enlightened to the beauty of skin complexion.

Synthesis / My Experience

I truly appreciate the artist’s beautifully crafted work, her immense technical skill, and her willingness to convey such a personal message through her art. I feel that Ja’Rie will be, and has been, highly successful in her mission to empower viewers by showcasing the beauty of skin complexion. Her pieces powerfully convey the harsh and discriminatory attitudes of many cultures towards skin color. The use of bleach as a major theme in her pieces evoked a very strong, sad reaction from me. However, her absolutely beautiful portrayal of African American women in their natural bodies and skin tones made me feel happy, as well as appreciative of people who are able to see and draw attention to such beauty. I love Ja’Rie’s ambition to showcase the beauty of all skin tones, and I think her work is exemplary of how successful she will continue to be in fulfilling this ambition.


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