Conceptualizing Dreams of Liberation

Jennifer duToit-Barrett interviews
Jaleeca Yancy


Art editor Jennifer duToit-Barrett recently had this exchange with Issue #39 featured artist Jaleeca Yancy. Here’s what she had to say about her artistic practice, how American culture influences her art, her sources of hope and inspiration, and more…. 
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Jaleeca Yancy

Art editor Jennifer duToit-Barrett recently had this exchange with Issue #39 featured artist Jaleeca Yancy. Here’s what she had to say about her artistic practice, how American culture influences her art, her sources of hope and inspiration, and more.




There is a sense of frozen, still moments in each piece—as though each piece captures many moments in time but within a single frame. Are you inspired by individual stories and experiences, or stories that represent like experiences of many individuals?

I am conceptualizing dreams of liberation. It is my hope that specifically for the African diaspora we seek and obtain true freedom to be individuals and breakthrough categorization and systemic ‘isms.’ Contemporary black identity is picturing the defragmentation process.



All of the works have a sense of collision and overlap. What does the layering mean for the work?

These are stories that represent like experiences of many individuals: The past, present, and future overlapping and colliding. I want my art to be a balance of challenging perspective, abstraction, and passion. It is my goal to depict minimalism and intention in the same capacity, which is displayed by layering many illustrations like a collage.



The piece “contemporary black identity: eye” seems more divided and offers harsh, divisive line work, whereas the other three pieces presented appear fluid and organic in form. Were the circumstances or motivations for creating this piece different?

This piece is a reference to awakening the third eye. The harsh, divisive line work reflects lines of consciousness that often cause humans to reflect on negative thoughts, thus altering your perception of yourself and the world. The third eye is the place of vision. When you use your two eyes, you can see only what is in front of you. But with the third eye, you can see forward, backward, and everywhere. I ultimately want to encourage the viewers to awaken the goddess within!



The way in which your contour lines intersect each other in this series, seems to parallel the juxtaposition of the African diaspora you are observing. Is this the fundamental message of your “Contemporary Black Identity”… a cross-cultural experience?
At the intersection of art and blackness, I believe that an underlining message is always fundamental. The message is about encouraging the observer to be optimistic about the possibilities of body, mind, culture, and traditions the African diaspora can communicate. As a black woman I am often reminded of my ancestor’s history, and stereotypes while living in an increasingly mass-mediated American culture. “Contemporary Black Identity” is a front seat to cross-cultural experience. The main focus is to illustrate the stories and emotions I myself and the black and brown community encounters every day. This series follows the visible edges of the African diaspora that is both beautiful and often misunderstood.



Where do you find hope? How do you illustrate hope in your artwork?

 “I find beauty in a simple existence. In abandoning all worldly desires. Just like a tree or a stone.” – Leonie 

Instead of beauty, I believe hope is letting go of desires that can be detrimental to oneself and the world. Finding peace within yourself and sharing that peace with those you come in contact with. When making a work of art, I am explaining myself, my emotions, how I relate to the world. I am explaining what I have been through or experiences I hope to have in the future.



Has working with Rosalyn Englemen had an impact on your work?  If so, how?

Rosalyn is a dear friend that has opened more than her heart to me. I am overjoyed to accompany her on any painting in the studio. How she approaches the canvas beginning to end is like watching a conductor whisking her baton to create “the duality of the human soul—Beauty as well as Bestiality.”  My personal art practice is now evolving around patience, precision, and peace. The largest impact is that I am becoming confident in the business of art and how to maneuver in the art world.



I enjoyed visiting your work online, particularly The Branch series. How does this previous practice inform your current works? Additionally, why “branch”? Is this object symbolic of a greater message?

The Branch doesn’t fall far from the tree is experimenting with kinetic body art done with charcoal, coconut oil, water, and nature. It is inspired by the saying, “The apple doesn’t fall from the tree” and its parallel to the African American family tree. In creating this series, I was inspired by Yaa Gyasi’s début novel, Homegoing, a tale of a family split between Africa and America. There is no greater message but to remember where you came from and to know where you are going.


By Jaleeca Yancy

Jaleeca Yancy (September 23, 1990) is a multi-disciplinary artist from Memphis, Tennessee currently living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Yancy attended Lipscomb University and received a Bachelor of Science in marketing and graphic design. She is a volunteer art teacher in Harlem and guest artist for The Langston Hughes House. She is presently gaining professional experience as a studio apprentice for Rosalyn A. Engelman Art Studio in Midtown Manhattan. Jaleeca Yancy has presented her work in group shows at National Arts Club, Chinatown Soup, Bronx Art Space, Greenpoint Gallery, Square Root in former Pfizer Pharmaceutical factory and House of Words in Brooklyn.