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BEYOND THE STREETS on PAPER: 10 Questions with Jamilla Okubo

When Washington DC-based painter Jamilla Okubo opened her newest solo show, I do not come to you as a myth, I come to you as a reality at Mehari Sequar Gallery this past summer, it felt as if she had broken through on a visual aesthetic that was all her own. Through her own sense of narrative, she has always celebrated the "Black body in relation to movement, expression, ideology, and culture," and her works seem to have found a poetic pulse that has transformed her paintings into storytelling. For BEYOND THE STREETS on PAPER, Okubo experimented with a 4-panel work, mixing patterns, figurative language and that innate ability to communicate folklore into fine art. We spoke to her about this practice and her last year or so and how she prepared her work on paper. 

Has the past year impacted or influenced your work in any way? How so
Yes, fortunately this past year really allowed me to slow down and focus on developing techniques and digging deeper.

How has the mood of your most recent work changed or shifted from past work we’ve seen?
It’s gotten a lot more serious and intense.

What would you say is the medium that has defined your work as an artist
Working with patterns.

When was the last time you produced works on paper?
In 2013 and I missed it so much!

What does working on paper look like for you?
It’s a similar process to when I work on canvas but there’s something more therapeutic for me when working on paper.

It seems like in the past year artists everywhere quite literally went back to the “drawing board.” What was that experience like for you as an artist or an individual?
It was an emotional rollercoaster haha. I learned so much about myself as an individual as well as artist which translated into the work I created during the beginning of the pandemic. I explored new themes within my work as well as compositions and the way I wanted to see my work.

What does urgency mean to you?
Quickly but efficiently.

Has your relationship with time changed at all in regards to creating?
Yes. I learned to appreciate slowing down and learned to trust the timing of my process. As someone who does a lot of illustration work for clients with a tight turnaround time it was very challenging to slow down when working on my personal work.

What are some new hobbies or skills you cultivated in the past year that you have continued to keep up?
…none really.

Any playlists or podcasts you listened to while making your works on paper?I listened to a jazz playlist that I created featuring Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, to name a few. Jazz really energizes me and helps me focus.

BEYOND THE STREETS ON PAPER is on view at the Southampton Arts Center in  Southampton, New York through August 28, 2021