Nneka Jones always had an astounding love for colour and special attention to detail. She admits that the Trinbagonian culture has always been prominent throughout her artistic journey. The artist was never one to accept mediocrity, not only in art, but also in her everyday life and has always been willing to take on a challenge. This led her to take the risk of leaving behind her family and friends to travel the world in pursuit of both sharing and gaining versatile experiences that would enhance her artistry.
The 22-year-old artist is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Tampa with a Marketing minor and is expected to graduate in May 2020. Nneka is fascinated with contemporary portraiture and how that marries with mixed media artwork. This is highlighted in her recent creations using the technique of hand embroidery to create works that mimic the realism of an oil painting as well as the use of condoms to comment on social issues of sexual abuse. The WE Mag team got the opportunity to chat with Nneka about her work as an artist and her very unique and intricate pieces that she uses to highlight social issues. Here’s what Nneka shared with us in an interview:
What are you working on at present, what is keeping you excited?
Currently, I am enrolled in an independent study course where I am given a private studio space, as well as the freedom to create a body of work in preparation for my graduation show in 2020. This space has not only allowed me to reflect on my past works and how I can improve them, but has also challenged me to create artwork that not only fills the walls of my studio but speaks volumes beyond this structure.
I am therefore working simultaneously to develop a series of artworks that feature two bodies of work, exploring different media. The series emphasizes the theme of “Targets” where I use symbolism and materials to comment on social and political injustices that exist in society today. These “targets” refer to victims that have been abused sexually, mentally, physically, emotionally, et cetera.
I use materials such as condoms and embroidery thread that create interesting textures, manipulating them so that the viewer does not notice them at first. The condom paintings range from smaller sizes of 30” x 40” to larger sizes of 48”x 60” with over 300 condoms adhered to each piece. These are used to highlight victims of sexual abuse and force viewers and members of society to speak about such injustices. In addition to the condoms, I also use embroidery thread to hand sew portraits of young girls who are usually the “target” for sex trafficking scams and other forms of sexual abuse, along with emotional and mental abuse.
I am excited to see how my series will evolve and the emotions that I evoke from the viewers who interact with it.
What is your ultimate goal or biggest dream for your future?
I want to continue making art forever. I do not ever want to stop; whether that means I will be a full-time artist, a gallery owner, a curator or all in one, I just know that my purpose is to create art and be in an environment where I can appreciate it.
I would love to continue establishing myself as an artist and my brand, ArtYouHungry, so that ultimately, I can have a gallery space and studio space that I can call my own but also create a platform for other artists who share the same ambitions, where they can exhibit, install and/ or perform.
Why do you do what you do?
I believe there are so many issues that exist in society that people are either too afraid to speak about or are completely oblivious to the fact that they exist. My artwork serves as a tool for communication and a space for interpretation, questions and analysis. Its purpose is to raise awareness, to speak and to give life and attention where it is needed.
I do not want to make art that is simply just aesthetically pleasing. I want to highlight injustices that are overlooked and showcase things that are taboo. This has helped victims feel more comfortable about opening up regarding their experiences which can potentially save the life of someone else or encourage someone else to speak out.
Do you have any advice for young women who may want to pursue art?
It is so easy as a young person to be influenced and persuaded by the thoughts and opinions of others. While this is sometimes helpful, and can even save you a lot of time and money, it is important to take the time to listen to your own voice and take risks based on your own passion.
Always remind yourself of your purpose when you feel as though you are getting lost in the opinions of others. I constantly remind myself that my passion drives my purpose and I try my best to take every opportunity that comes my way. This will not only help you “boss up” and boost your entrepreneurial skills as a creative but is excellent for networking connections in the art and business world.