Jeribai Andrew-Jaja

Q: What was your initial concern during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: “My initial concern was fear of the cancellation of some big art shows that I had been preparing for, which ended up being cancelled. So, I thought it would be more time to put in hard work for future exhibitions because the pandemic [allowed] me to catch up. [sic]”

Q: Your drawing is so detailed and realistic; I know in your statement you discussed how spending such a large amount of time focusing on drawing each pore created an “intimate connection.” I can see how this process would be meditative and cathartic, henceforth leading to your acceptance of your skin. I think this is such a positive take on the pandemic; creating projects, which you may not have had time for beforehand, that lead to self-healing. What was your artmaking process prior to COVID-19? How has the pandemic has affected you and your artmaking process?

A: “Prior to COVID-19, my basic art-making process was pretty much the same. I normally think of a concept, find a muse that fits the concept, take a photograph, and draw from the reference photo. The major impact the pandemic had on my process was a greater emotional connection while drawing. I [have] never poured out so much mixed emotions in creating as I [have] in this period. [sic] I was excited because it gave me time to focus more on myself and to create from a more intimate and vulnerable level – which I believe is the essence of my artistic expression. Making art during this period was much more cathartic.”

Q: The definition of art can vary per person. Knowing that your work has been a source of catharsis for you, what does art mean to you?

A: “Art means limitless expression and peace; it means fulfillment of my purpose; it means obedience to my truth; it means home.”

Q: What was the hardest part of the pandemic for you? (i.e.; isolation, finding food, finding medical supplies, lack of transportation, lack of access to healthcare, etc.)

A: “Isolation was the hardest part because I feel anxious when I stay a while without seeing people. I like to create in isolation, but I also like to see and feel people. At some point, I had to reach out to some friends and hang out to overcome the loneliness and to keep my sanity. The isolation together with the ongoing police misconduct cases and racial crisis put me in an artist block where I lost all motivation to create; for a few weeks, I was emotionally and mentally unavailable. I also did not have access to art supplies because stores were closed, and it took several weeks to get my orders online.

“The good side to all of this is that when I got back in my creative space, I had added so many new and genuine experiences to express in my work.”

Q: News articles are stating we are currently in the middle of a second surge; looking at the increase of positive test cases, it appears that the second surge is on its way. If this does happen, and Kentucky shuts down again, what will this mean for you?

A: “It will mean more time to create. After the first lock-down, I purchased a lot of art supplies to keep me ready. I have also been using this time to learn about the changes in recent times as it applies to my art and exhibitions. So, I’ll multiply my hard work, as I plan to have my first solo show next year.”