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Celebration of Scholarship and Creative Activity 2021

America the Unbeautiful

Jordyn Hussey

Junior, Art Education


In this body of work, I am focusing on racism. The black lives matter movement, amidst ongoing public debates about race, and widening gaps in wealth and opportunity, and discussions about representation and its relationship to justice seems more relevant than ever. So far, I’ve painted portraits of my friends of color as a way of signifying my alliance with the Black, Asian, and other ethnic communities instead of me telling their story, and a portrait of Vice President Kamala Harris to portray positivity in American history, as she is the first female of color to be elected. Lastly, I’ve created a mixed media piece of Black Lives Matter protests in front of the US Capitol building. I plan to create another piece of a scene from the Capitol insurrection and display both of these next to each other, hoping to contrast the evident amount of racism in America. With high tensions resulting from this movement, representing images of debates of race and justice in America seems more significant now more than ever.

Project Background 

I started off this series with portraits of my friends of color. Most of these pieces are done in oil paint, and were painted with both a palette knife and paint brushes to get diverse and interesting textures. In lieu of realistic artistic depiction, I prefer to paint in such a way that seeks to capture mood. By using expressive brush and palette knife work, I’m able to illuminate vulnerability and sensitivity within my subject matter. Not only do I love the textures the paint creates while using this technique, but I’m also drawn to the sense of vibration and energy that this approach reveals. I welcome the challenge of trying to infuse a sense of movement into my two-dimensional work. When painting these portraits, it was also important to me to depict them how they want to be seen. To give a specific example, my friend Kai is very expressive and free with her body. She loves to show her skin as she believes that her skin is something that is royal in her life, and wanted to be seen that way. These collaborative decisions are the heart of what my portraits portray. I have also created a portrait of our Vice President Kamala Harris, as this country has recently made history with her being our first female and first female of color Vice President of the United States. We’ve also recently seen a terrible attack on our nation’s Capitol building. With this mixed media piece, I captured a scene from the Black Lives Matter movement during the summer of 2020, and since I’m still creating paintings for this project, I plan to contrast this painting with another painting that captures a scene from the capitol insurrection. Just a few days into the new year, several hundred and mostly white supporters of President Trump charged inside the Capitol, roaming freely through the halls, taking selfies, stealing and defacing important historical artifacts, smashing doors and windows, and even killing several people. Even the confederate flag, that so many of our Americans died for, entered the building with little to no security measures being taken. On June 1, 2020, a crowd of similar size gathered outside the White House to peacefully protest after the police killing of George Floyd. Unlike the Capitol rioters, the BLM protesters were a diverse group who hoped to call for an end to police brutality and racial inequity in our country. However, this was halted after an army of federal agents were assembled after Trump demanded a show of domination, which sent them running with chemical agents and rubber bullets. It is the contrast of how these two events were handled that I seek to portray with these two pieces. Looking forward, I plan to continue to create paintings that pertain to issues of racism in America. I have lots of ideas planned, and I’m lucky to have Prof. Trina Smith as my mentor for this project, and even more lucky to have her as my Painting 2 course professor for this semester. I plan to continue to work with her on a weekly basis to successfully complete my project. I’m very excited to keep creating!

What Do You Think? 

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  1. Lisa Wright

    Excellent work Jordyn!

  2. Drue

    I loved the brush strokes of your paintings! I thought you executed this very large topic very well.

  3. Susan Maxwell

    You are tackling a complex and difficult problem in a creative way. Looking forward to seeing your next paintings in the series!

  4. Maggie Maki

    Great job Jordyn! Your pieces are beautiful and I loved the texture and feelings that you were able to portray. The meaning behind your project is wonderful and I hope it touches everyone else as it did for me!

  5. Gail Panske

    This is a complicated and difficult topic to address. I look forward to seeing your future work as you continue to develop and refine your approach to the topic.

  6. Trina Smith

    It has been a pleasure to work with you. I look forward to continuing to support you as you find inlets to this complex issue through your passion for change.


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