Artist: Ja’rie Gray
Exhibition: My Complexion
Media: Oil paint on canvas, charcoal on canvas
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery East
Ja’rie Gray is a third year student at CSULB. She is pursuing a MFA in Drawing and Painting with an emphasis on figurative. She is from South Central L.A. Ja’rie has already earned her BFA at Laguna College of Art and Design. She expressed how she felt that an artist can always learn more which is why she continued going to college. She has been drawing since she was five years old, but only accepted herself as an artist after she began college. She is also an art professor at CSULB.
Each painting has their own unique quality to them. The charcoal paintings put a darker feel on them. They give a wash out look to them. The shadows put a contrast within the art. The oil paintings emphasize the way she feels about her skin tone. The audience can see the bleach in them and how in one, the women appear to be drinking it. They also show the different skin tones of each painting within the painting. There are a lot of edges in her paintings. Each one has at least one rectangle or square shaped object within it. The vibrant colors make her clothes pop and contrast against her skin tone.
Ja’rie wanted to emphasize how darker African Americans are not seen as beautiful as those who have lighter skin tones. She wants her audience to believe that they are beautiful no matter what skin tone they have. Her paintings show her struggles that she had growing up with a darker skin tone. She put bleach in her paintings due to the fact that she used to bathe in bleach. She hoped that by bathing in bleach for hours, her skin tone would become lighter. In most of her paintings, she has multiple versions of herself. Each version is a lighter version of herself and there is one who actually resembles her skin tone. In all of her paintings, she seems miserable and unhappy. When talking to Ja’rie, she explained how it took years for her to accept who she was. She was completely unhappy due to her skin tone. Now she feels beautiful in her own skin and made these painting to help others see their own beauty as well.
I loved this exhibit. It is probably my favorite one that I’ve seen this year. I am not a dark skin woman, but I do have friends that are. I see their struggle to feel beautiful in today’s society where a “light skin black woman” is seen as more beautiful than those with darker skin tones. I love Ja’rie’s message to love yourself no matter what your skin tone is. I feel like this is a message that should be more emphasized in our society. She challenges what “true beauty” is in her art. She shows that there is something beautiful in everybody, which is a message that I love.