Artist: Ja’Rie Gray
Exhibition: My Complexion
Media: MFA, Drawing and Painting
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery West
Website: jariegraymycomplexion.weebly.com, jariegrayblackface.com
Ja’Rie Gray is a student in the Drawing and Painting program at CSULB and is close to getting her degree. Although she is graduating this spring, she will be coming back to teach Foundation Life Drawing. She started doing art when she was 5 but didn’t consider herself an artist until she started college. She says that her art is heavily inspired by artists such as Jacob Lawrence and Barkley L. Hendricks amongst other African American artists.
Her work revolves around oil on canvas and charcoal on paper. When she started getting into art, she always loved drawing so charcoal is her most comfortable medium and the one she enjoys the most; however, she claims that oil is her “second love.” In her art, her colors are very vibrant and welcoming and her shapes are very geometric. Her art is also realistic in a way that it represents body shape and skin color in a way that isn’t but should be shown more often. This sense of realism yet boldness reflects her use of real life and imagination from her art process in which she combines the two into a main composition.
Gray’s art is really focused on complexion, self-acceptance, and self-love. These are 3 ideas I reflect on constantly and really have an impact not only on the artist and her audience but also on the entirety of society. She really wants to bring attention to the importance of self acceptance and also represent people of different skin complexions and how dark skin is beautiful. One of her biggest messages that she wants to get across is that one should not try to change who they are or what they look like in order to make other people accept them.
My Complexion is by far my favorite exhibition so far. The message that Gray wants to get out to the world is one I think about often and discuss with my peers. Why is light skin amongst other Eurocentric features idolized to the point where people all over the world who don’t fit these standards start to hate who they are? It isn’t healthy to change oneself for acceptance from others and there is no solution to self-hate other than self-acceptance and self-love. It’s really unfair that media and society impose these standards on people, especially the young so that many strive to be someone they are not. That’s why this exhibit is so important to me. There is no standard to beauty and people don’t appreciate the beauty of dark skin as much as they should because we are socialized to praise those of lighter skin and smaller features.