Hi Jazzmine, can you tell us about how you began making art?
I have memories of sitting in my mum’s car as a kid, drawing pictures and thinking “I like that” but also knowing I was the only one who really liked it and saw something in it. My style of drawing hasn’t really changed since then. I think it is my way of tapping into a place that makes sense in my brain and also sometimes makes no sense at all. Art for me has always been an expression, a way to speak without words, to communicate things I don’t actually have the words for.
You said previously that your work is a reflection of your daily observations of the world around you. How does drawing allow you to translate and in a way, rewrite these quotidian experiences?
My drawings allow me to say things that I probably wouldn’t say to people’s faces without causing a stir. That is what I love about art, it gives you a voice in a way that isn’t forceful or demanding. I have recently been posting pictures from a series of drawings I did called Things Said by Women I’ve Dated. It is very funny to look over those pictures and the words that were said and laugh but, at the time it was a very strange experience. That series allowed me, in a way to rewrite the experience of being faced with pretty strange and sometimes hurtful commentary by people who I had met once or maybe twice.
Your drawings often feature people and employ humour as a tool for exploring the darker side of human experience and the sexism you observe. Are your drawings amalgamations of your reflections on society, or representations of actual people and events?
I think my drawings are a mix of both. I think people need some sort of outlet to process the unfairness that exists in the world. My drawings are a way of exploring that idea, my own personal experiences and what I see every day. The world can be a very frustrating place, creating these drawings, paintings or whatever it may be is one way for me to let go of some of that frustration and allow myself to laugh and hopefully make others chuckle too.
In alignment with the theme of Edition I, (The Significance of Hair and the Subversion of Craft), I’d like to know what your views are on the importance of body hair in feminist art and discourse. What is it that compels you to explore the politics of body hair?
I think body hair is interesting because of the expectations that come with it. If women choose not to shave their legs or underarms people make hateful comments, they are either a “dirty hippy” or a “lesbian.” Someone somewhere decided that female body hair is gross so women went with it and got rid of it. It is not dissimilar for men, if you see a man with shaven legs and underarms the brain automatically thinks “he must be an athlete” instead of thinking “maybe he wants to have soft skin”. We are conditioned to think that if men are “feminine” it makes them weak because we have been conditioned to believe that women are weak. Personally I believe the only reason men have controlled and still try to control women to the extent that exists within history and society today is because women are seen as a threat.. At the same time I believe that attitudes are changing as people become more exposed to things outside of their frame of reference.
Through platforms such as Instagram and Tumblr, many women have been showing favour of body hair and rejection of beauty standards that suggest women should be hairless. We have been questioning the potency of this resurgence; though natural hair growth can be so important for individuals - it can seem a bit surface (skin) level and exclusionary. What are your thoughts? Will this focus on hair achieve a subversion of beauty standards, and ultimately equality?
I remember years ago when Julia Roberts (I looked it up, it was in 1999) was on the red carpet pictured waving to her fans and she had underarm hair. The next day this was all over the news and on the covers of those TERRIBLE women’s magazines. I thought the whole thing was so ridiculous. I could not believe that people would actually care! I think if she did that today it would be less of a big deal but without a doubt those magazines would still put the pictures on the front cover and cut her down. The same thing is not at all done towards men and this current obsession that they have with beards. You NEVER see a news story because some celebrity dude forgot to shave and went on a red carpet. It is really confusing and scary how all of these little hypocrisies float around the world and add to this overall sexism that exists.
I have noticed a recent trend of women growing their underarm hair which I think is great, I feel like it is a little bit of a push back from women towards the war on beauty standards. It is important to have a voice for all those who don’t and I feel like the ones who choose to go against the grain are the ones who will push equality forward.
With the ever-increasing rise of the power of social media, 2015 has seen more and more people expressing their feminism online. Where do you see feminism headed in 2016? What do you feel needs to shift in the current feminist landscape in order to achieve equality?
I think for feminism to keep going in the direction it is, we need more opportunities for women. Especially in the arts. I saw this fantastic interview this morning with Geena Davis, who for a large part of the last 8 years has focused on researching gender in the media. One of the statistics she spoke of showed that the ratio of male to female characters in movies has been the same since 1946. She also found that in crowd or group scenes female characters make up around 17%. This just shows that as much as we want to believe things have changed, they really haven’t changed all that much. It is so important not to buy into the hype and think “well, Lena Dunham has made it, so the fight it over.” No, it is not. There are thousands of Lena Dunham’s out there fighting to be heard but no one is giving them the opportunity to do so. I think for things to truly change all women need to demand change, to demand opportunity and to not stop fighting until equality exists, not just on paper but in all aspects of life.
Finally, what would equality look like to you?
Equality to me would be a world in which everybody has equal opportunities. It is as simple as that. Equality cannot move forward if cultural, sexual and racial biases continue to exist. It absolutely enrages me when people say things like “well, if she worked harder she would get the job” or when a single female in power is used as an example of change for all women. It is an absolute load of garbage. Opportunity = change and change = equality.