Artist: Ja’rie Gray
Exhibition: My Complexion
Media: Oil paint on canvas, charcoal on canvas
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery East
About the Artist: Ja’rie Gray is from South Central LA, and is pursuing an MFA in Drawing and Painting with an emphasis on figurative. It is her third year and last semester at CSULB, and she believes that an artist can never stop learning, and it should be normal for one to continue staying in school to study the craft. Ja’rie, who has drawn since she was five years old, accepted her own artistry when she began college and taking art courses. She earned her BFA at LCAD (Laguna College of Art and Design).
Formal Analysis: The oil paintings, rich in vibrant colors and shapes, have a very warm feeling that radiates around the room. Many geometric shapes, colored brightly, found in the figures’ clothing and headwear, stand out from the softer lines of the female form and furniture garnishing the frame of the room. The women, seemingly identical reflections or versions of one another, shine beautifully in their dark complexion against the colorful backgrounds. The charcoal drawings, very similar in content to the paintings, act like a black and white film; the color is gone, but what is left is powerful shadows that illustrate the depth and power of the human spirit.
Content Analysis: The works of My Complexion deal with African American culture, inspired by late 20th century and contemporary artists. Ja’rie wanted to place an emphasis on darker skin complexion as a reaction to mainstream beauty standards in order to convey the message of accepting oneself for who you are. The gallons of bleach found within the paintings and drawings represent an experience that she dealt with herself as a child, in which she filled a bathtub full of bleach and submerged herself in it in order to try and change her skin color. After the painful experience and growing older, she realized the power of one’s own acceptance, and for her it was accepting her darker skin was beautiful and her own. The multiple versions of the women within the art may represent varying aspects of her own personality, and may be an illustration of what happens in her mind.
My Experience: Ja’rie’s art pieces displayed a great level of discipline and an eye for beauty. The colors, complemented by the contemplating women, convey a great amount of feelings and love for oneself and the community one is in. I thought the figures had an amazing amount of detail and realism, and gave off a very warm message of love and comfort. My Complexion is a collection of paintings and drawings that speak to a much larger idea, one that is still hard for some to grasp, but for people like Ja’rie, showing pride in own’s one identity can make for a very poignant and powerful exposition.