There is the artwork. The story behind the artwork and the story that the artwork tells.Nneka Jones
Art from culture
Nneka Jones satisfies her “cravings to create” by using art to mimic “our human experiences of everyday life with the aim of capturing the most realistic and pure versions of these encounters.” She is a Trinidadian activist and artist who has recently graduated from the University of Tampa in Florida, USA. She grew up in the melting pot of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago and has always been influenced by different cultures.
These cultures are one of the main factors that has molded her art. She has an “astounding love for color and special attention to detail, as influenced by her culture, have always been prominent throughout her artistic journey.”
Jones has “been using art as a channel to create a more intimate connection between the Caribbean and the rest of the world.” She came to the U.S. on her own to pursue an artist career. Jones was told that she won’t be able to sustain herself in a future with art, according to her Adobe MAX presentation. Her sisters went to school for business, therefore she felt pressure to change to a marketing major. But her advisor saw something in her and suggested sticking with art. From then on, her art career took off and especially blew up around George Floyd’s death. This event brought her work to the public because these times of racial injustice in the U.S. showed that black female artists are under-represented.
Jones’s art mainly consists of girls and women of color. She does embroidery, mixed media, paintings and photography. But she specializes in “thread painting” which “blends embroidery thread to stitch stunning portraits of young girls, women, and the occasional celebrity,” Jones says. According to Colossal, her art shows that “the subjects wear somber faces and stare forward through the gaps of a bullseye or scope, symbols that serve a larger purpose” having to do with abuse. Jones says she uses condoms to “raise awareness of sexual abuse and sex trafficking of young girls of color.” This particular kind of art style of using unconventional materials has gotten her very far and noticed in her career.
According to Jones, her hand-embroidered portraits are “an exploration of a contemporary approach to portraiture using a hand embroidery technique to create captivating, textured images.” Her website touches on why each medium is so special. For example, the target series is about her passion to raise awareness about the social and political issues surrounding sexual abuse victims and the rise of human trafficking. Her mixed-media paintings with condoms “pushes the boundaries of the purpose of art.” It also explores how different materials can “capture the eyes and mind of the viewer to raise awareness about issues of abuse that affect society,” Jones says.
The Trinidadian artist focuses on “the social and political issues affecting Caribbean society,” especially the issues having to do with the ways young girls of color experience the devastating effects of sexual abuse. She shows this by covering the subjects faces with targets.
Making art that has captivating imagery and symbolism catches peoples eyes. It shows that her art “is a call to action for everyone to become aware of sex trafficking and stand up against it,” Jones says.
I believe that contemporary artists, particularly those that consider themselves ‘activist artists,’ are important today for starting a conversation without using any words.Nneka Jones
Jones won third place for the award of Artistic Excellence at the Gasparilla Festival of Arts in 2020. This is an outdoor museum in Tampa Bay, Fla. where hundreds of the world’s finest hand-selected artists gather. She was also a guest speaker at the Adobe MAX 2020 Conference, amongst the best in the art industry. She is “inspiring others by sharing how she turned her doubts into dreams, and made those dreams into reality.”
Another highlight of her career is when she made a piece for black visionaries and creators. This piece made it on the cover of Time Magazine in August 2020. It was for the special issue called “The New American Revolution” and was curated by Pharrell Williams. Each detail of the piece was hand embroidered to create the American flag, but left unfinished to show the revolution isn’t over. She was the first Trinidadian to be on the cover of Time Magazine.
“I believe that my artistic journey has only just begun and I am eager to explore my creative purpose in life, and to reach my ultimate goal of being an internationally renowned artist,” Jones says.