Creativity came to life: student artwork showcased in Joint Art Exhibit

Creativity came to life: student artwork showcased in Joint Art Exhibit

Student artists will be showcasing their work at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center on Saturday, Feb. 20. CW | Jonathan Daniels

By Aaron Bonner | Staff Reporter

For students, creating artwork is a form of expression, be it drawings doodled in the corners of a notebook to the stroke of a brush on a canvas in an art class. But for Sunshine Jackson, a junior majoring in civil construction engineering and art, creating art became much more than a passing interest.

Jackson took art classes before college, but she never fully considered it as a possible career option. Once in college, her creativity flourished, and she decided to make the change to an art major while still focusing on her degree in civil construction engineering.

“[In] middle school and high school, I took art and even just when I was a kid I used to love to paint and draw," Jackson said. "It’s just always been something I’ve liked to do, and my parents always encouraged me."

Jackson uses vibrant, bold colors to help bring her pieces to life. A fan of oil paintings, Jackson creates her art by taking inspiration from her African-American culture. In several of her pieces, Jackson puts her heritage and interests into her work to build pieces that stand out in a crowd with their bright color scheme.

For Jackson, art felt like less of a work prospect, but rather a way to express herself through a creative channel. In the Alabama National Fair, Jackson unveiled an oil painting of singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill, which won 3rd place in the festival.

It was this piece in particular that drew the eye of Alicia Mitchell, a junior majoring in finance, and an ambassador for Miss Black Alabama.

“As the Miss Black Alabama ambassador, I had to choose a certain assignment to do in the month of February," Mitchell said. "I really like art, even though I can’t draw, so I chose an art exhibit. When I was talking to the event coordinator at the cultural art center, she was talking about how they never got black artists in there; you just never got to see them. I was like ‘Well, there’s not only black artists at UA, but also at Stillman College.' "

After pitching the idea to representatives at Stillman College, several artists came forth to show their work in the Joint Art Exhibit, an exhibit showcasing the works of college-based African-American artists.

Much like Jackson, Jourdan McGowan, a junior majoring in art, took a similar approach to his newly-declared major. As a kid, McGowan would draw in notebooks and create art, but never saw it as anything more than simple schoolyard doodles.

“I came to school; I was playing basketball and I was a biology major," McGowan said. "I didn’t like it anymore and needed something else to do, so I took an elective art class and fell in love with it. I’ve been doing it since then. I took two semesters of it at Stillman, and I’m on my third here."

McGowan previously studied at Stillman College, but after budget cuts affected the college’s art program, McGowan transferred to the University to pursue his degree in art.

McGowan takes inspiration from many sources, from famous artists of the past, lesser-known local artists and his own dreams. One of these dream pieces is titled "Tears of Pisces," where McGowan painted an eyeball that cried fish.

“I actually get a lot of inspiration from dreams," he said. "I’m a guy who actually remembers a lot of my dreams, and some of them are crazy. If I remember, I get up and jot them down … I had a dream where I was crying fish. I was born in March, so I’m a Pisces, so I was just like I can make a piece putting that together.”

McGowan’s art has been featured in several art shows, with the biggest one being Piney Woods Art Festival, in Enterprise, Alabama, where he won an award for "Green Rhythm," a piece he sold during the festival. When designing the piece, McGowan never assumed it would win, but after winning the award, he felt regret when selling the piece.

Krystal Jordan, a junior majoring in art history, differs from Jackson and McGowan due to her past. In school, Jordan was an artistic student, often drawing on the pages of her notebooks during class.

“I was the student always doodling in my other classes, and it was just like, ‘You know what? This isn’t just doodling; this is actually like I’m actually creating works of art,’ " Jordan said. "I’m just in Government or English my senior year [of high school], and I’m like ‘I think I’m on to something here.’ ”

In her senior year of high school, Jordan received a box of artwork given to her by her grandmother, Nancy Jordan. Nancy spent her time in Arlington, Virginia, specializing in painting landscapes and animals. When Jordan saw her grandmother’s work, it gave her the push to create.

Jordan works with a wide variety of materials, decorating glass bottles, painting with oils and even crocheting, a skill she learned from watching YouTube tutorials. Just like her grandmother, Jordan said Jackson Pollock, the creator of the drip method of abstract design, was also a prime source of her creativity.

“We all have hobbies and things we do to relieve stress – not even like when we're sad or upset, but just like a happy place," Jordan said. "Throwing around paint was mine."

The three artists exhibit their art online using various forms of social media. Jackson’s work can be found on Instagram at art.soul.sunshine. McGowan’s work can be found on Instagram at j.mcgowanart and Jordan is also on Instagram at _katcreates.

Jackson also sells prints of her art using Etsy. Though her art classes start next semester, Jackson hopes that selling her art will expand much further than an online marketplace.

“There are future plans, but I have no clue where art is gonna take me," Jackson said. "I’m gonna pursue art as far as it can take me. It’s not concrete plans, but I have big dreams. I want to make a living off of art, as crazy as it sounds … I feel like God gave me a gift, so I thought why not use it."

Along with their social media outlets, Jordan, Jackson and McGowan, along with four other artists, will be showcasing their work at the Joint Art Exhibit at the Dinah Washington Cultural Art Center on Saturday, Feb. 20 from 3-7 p.m. Admission is free.

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