Today we’d like to introduce you to Jillian Marie Thompson.
Jillian Marie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
It started with music especially Hip Hop music. As a child, I was drawn to the charismatic wordplay and lyrics. The women in the genre like Lauryn Hill, Foxy Brown and Lil Kim to name a few. I always paid close attention to the fashion in the music videos, the bold hairstyles that would impact the culture for decades to come. Being a young girl, I was drawn to women making a name for themselves in a male-dominated genre — the women who were changing the culture on their own terms.
I grew up in a suburb outside of Detroit, Michigan. Looking back on that time period of my self, its safe to say that it was a diverse sheltered environment. I had a naive outlook on how others perceived my presence as a black woman. I attended Grand Valley State University, which near the city of Grand Rapids on the West side of Michigan a little bit outside of Chicago, IL. While attending Grand Valley, I became aware of how others perceived African Americans and black women.
During this time, I was transiting in wearing my hair natural. I wasn’t putting a relaxer in my hair or straightening my hair with flat irons, I was embracing my curls and learning how to appreciate its natural state. The combination of living in a city with a lack of diversity and embracing my natural hair transition fueled my art practice. The foundation of my art practice started with jewelry.
While taking a jewelry casting course at Grand Valley, I had an assignment to create a charm bracelet or necklace. I remember having a creative block, I didn’t know what I should make, I was lost. My professor Renee Zettle-Sterling suggested that I draw from my personal experience. My first thought was a large gold chain, something that LL Cool J would wear in his music videos. I wanted to create a chain for women, especially the black women hip hop artist that I idolized from a young age. By mixing the casted bronze pieces with braided hair to a forum a wearable chain.
Adding the braids to the necklace related to my current experience of learning how to braid my own hair. From that moment until now, my art practice has been centered around African American braiding styles, various chain making techniques, and hip-hop culture. I have continued to think about ideas of black women’s beauty, what that means looking at sculptural objects or through wearable artwork. My practice is constantly changing with various metal forming techniques or finishes that describe for mimic hair patterns or braiding styles.
Has it been a smooth road?
Attending graduate school challenges the way we think, learn and create artwork. At times it can be difficult to explain ideas that are fueled by cultural cues, that majority of my classmates are unaware of their existence. Now, I look back on those moments as motivators for future artworks.
I make work for myself and those who understand and relate to the topics in my practice. I’m okay that my sculpture or wearable artworks aren’t for everyone to understand or interpret. I think those qualities make the works more interesting.
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @jmariemetal
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