A portrait of commissioned Arthur Davis by Nola Media Group, producers of NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune as part of its tricentennial project, 300 for 300: People who make New Orleans, New Orleans. | Read full story |
Being born and raised in New Orleans has been an endless source of inspiration for me. The city's rich culture, distinct landmarks, and colorful (and tragic) history all shine through the worlds I create in my paintings. Known in the art world as "JHand," my work aims to capture all that makes my hometown special: the flavor, the essence, the jazz, the originality.
Drawing and painting have always brought me peace. My earliest creations were on the backs of worksheets, inside books. I was still drawing, on everything. As my artistic abilities became more apparent, I found support from family, friends, and teachers: my mom's friends gave me sketchpads; an elementary school teacher let me decorate the classroom and showcased my work to other faculty members. I found creating to be liberating, and, thankfully, lifesaving: I had a crazy childhood. I lived with a lot of different people in a lot of different places, and I can't imagine what would have happened if I never picked up the brush.
My children also inspire my paintbrush strokes, the people I've met on my journey through life, and the mental, emotional, and spiritual space I'm in a while creating. My latest pieces have been blue, a reflection on a lifetime of "living here and living there."
"House of Blues," my newest series, offers a fresh take on the juxtaposition of New Orleans and Africa. It features blue people with robust African features in distinctly New Orleans homes. In painstaking detail, the collection captures the beauty and the tragic aspects — the sadness, joy, jazz, gentrification, etc. — of life in the Crescent City.
Having depicted many scenes and characters, I have found that the most significant creative clarity is when I'm focused on myself. I painted many different topics growing up. But when I tapped into myself and went deep into my emotions through my work, I felt free as an artist.
My work was the regional winner of the Bombay Sapphire Artist Series at Art Basel in Miami, it's been featured in Bennachin's African restaurant, I'm an artist vendor at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and my work has been featured in numerous gallery shows around the city.
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