Today we’d like to introduce you to Jay Elizabeth.
Jay, before we jump into specific questions about your work, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I recall always getting in trouble on drawing whether it was too much or on the wrong canvas. I guess that’s always been hard to accept. It’s hard to accept the frameworks of society. Mind you, I need glasses but never wear them. That probably says a lot of me as a person. Me mama Siempre me reganaba for drawing on myself or my pants or the walls of my bedroom. In elementary school, I recall drawing Sonic! The Hedgehog and Hello Kitty with my friends. I’ve always been drawin’ in my spare time.
I knew at a young age I never wanted to go to college. I never really had a plan and I remember being in my senior year of high school wondering what the fuck I was going to do. At the time I was really into post-hardcore music and at the time tumblr.com was a thing. I’d follow band photographers and artists online who inspired me to draw, listen to local bands, etc. It’s funny looking back at it too because I remember having this 12 megapixel Sony Ericson phone.
I’d take pictures of the sky every day because it was always changing. I’d constantly draw and write lyrics on myself. After lunch or if I could ditch any earlier I’d be taking the metro blue line to downtown la and eventually to sunset blvd to see my favorite bands play. I’d stand in line for hours hoping to get a spot at the front to take photos and rock out. I could tell you horror stories the pit, my homies who got drunk or into fights, etc. but I loved taking photographs- that was the only thing I was certain of.
All of my favorite bands where playing warped tours that summer and I had never been but I had heard if you donated blood there was like this coupon or something and because I’m a humanitarian, of course, I was gonna donate! It was a win-win situation. While I was donating the blood one of the nurses mentioned to me Glendale Community College had a great photography program and that’s how I ended up going there. When I went there I did take some GE classes but I thought, hell- if I’m going to go to college I might as well go for something I enjoy and ended up signing up for art and photography classes. I learned so much there.. eventually, I transferred to Cypress Community College and took more photography classes there. I went to college for four years and I doubt I’ll ever get a degree or finish whatever I started there. I just couldn’t handle the stress. How stressed out can someone be that they literally limp to class to take their finals? I survived appendicitis and also earned a scholarship at each college and won an award from the California College Media Association in California.
I used to photograph the Downtown Anaheim Art Crawl event and take photos of my friend’s band playing at the certified Farmers’ Market. Eventually, I became the farmers’ market manager and curated local artist/music at events. While managing certified farmers’ markets in Southern California I’ve also documented the farmers and the produce they grow. Now I conduct farm visits and try to document their stories in my spare time.
I began managing a farmer’s market in Orange, CA this time last year and was tirelessly searching for another job. At the time I decided to take a break from art to focus on my career not realizing art was it. A month later I got another part-time job as a certified farmers’ market manager in Willowbrook, CA for “LA’s largest mission-based non-profits.” Six months later, I moved to downtown long beach, CA. It’s not that I stopped doing art for half a year, I kept creating I just never shared with friends, posted online, updated my website, etc..
I began searching online, applying to opportunities and went from doing art walks to getting gallery spaces and opportunities to create and collaborate with other local artists and shops! Now I focus on my abstract art, self-portraits, portraits of sentient beings, loved ones, friends and family, writing, singing and growing as an artist.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Somehow I persevered through my self-sabatoge, eating disorder, and depression. It’s something I struggle with daily but am learning to cope with in healthy ways.
I’ve never stopped creating or being and there were so many times where I almost gave up. In fact, my suicidal tendencies linger and have to overcome break downs and that’s not going to stop me from creating art anywhere. I’m eager and hopeful I’ll be able to not only create but also create a space, encourage and support any expression of art. I never thought it’d be here. Would have never imagined or understood I could work for and manifest these things.
We’d love to hear more about your work.
People always ask my medium or what type of art I do and I just… am. I’m a performing artist that does mixed media. Art is open for interpretation so it’s hard for me to label it because it’s a combination of concepts. My “Self, 2018” series I began with watercoloring myself, photographing myself on my Apple iPhone 7+ with the self-timer and later editing on the Snapseed by Google App.
I’ve also been known to go to local shows and photograph with my polaroids and other cameras. It’s really cool to take pictures of my homies and do them some justice by capturing their essence. Truth be told, I’ve always been a closet poet and self-taught singer. I’m writing and singing a lot these days in my native tongue and tomorrow, days or years from now I’m not sure what I’ll be working on what I’ll identify as but I’m always changing like the moon. The perfect example of that is my modeling portfolio. All those photographs are outdated of images of me and I’ve got a few self-portrait series I have yet to edit or post about.
I can’t help that my passions consume me.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I registered as an artist on the @artslb website. I inquired about the art walk and was set to participate in September. I began posting my life’s work, sharing works in progress and creating again. After I finished setting up at the downtown Long Beach Art Walk, I began painting myself with watercolors. As I was painting I was approached by someone who overlooked my documentary photographs but was intrigued by my self-portraits.
At the time, the series was only four photographs. I wasn’t done painting so I told him to return later for some live art because I burn my photographs to create art. He never returned but my first art walk was successful in an abundance of ways. First off, I’ve met and connected with so many local artists and just people who wholesomeness appreciate art. And to answer your question, no one bought art or even tipped me that night. I had my photograph taken several times, distributed business cards, directly spoke and connected with people and didn’t make a dime but it was anything far from a waste of time. It was so fulfilling and gratifying to have been a part of.
After the weekend, I sent an email to the art specialist to inquire about the first Friday event he mentioned and sent him photographs a local photographer captured of me burning on a piece I have yet to complete. He never responded to my original email but a few days after my birthday I received an email from him about participating at the Expo Art Massive in September. I created, printed, and framed my “self” series on an 8×8 wall on Friday, September 6, 2019, after having watercolored, photographed and double-exposed the year before (on Saturday, November 17, 2018.) From then on, I’ve tried to take every opportunity to share my art with the world.
Again, I’ve never stopped creating but my lack of self-worth hindered my growth as an artist and ability to be vulnerable or just be. On November 22, 2019, the art specialist from earlier reached out to coordinate artist for the Fourth Friday event in downtown long beach at an independent bookstore, “Page Against The Machine.” Now I frequently go there to take new photographs and just create! Last week they let me set up light sand take photographs of customers shopping for books, attendees of the art walk and musicians that performed on the sidewalk along with polaroids and many wonderful memories!
- Website: www.jayelizabeth.art
- Phone: (562) 270-4978
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/jayelizabethart/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/jayelizabethart
- Other: https://www.jayelizabeth.art/htebazileyaj
All photographs by Jay Elizabeth
35mmFilm Exposure & Scan by D. Scotty Salmon