“Art encourages us to cherish intuition, uncertainty and creativity, and to search constantly for new ideas; artists aim to break rules and find unorthodox ways of approaching contemporary issues.” Art Direction Consultant and Communications Advisor, Jaé Joseph, shares how his British West Indian identity influences his creative process, how he defines success and two young black female composers that you should have on your radar.
YOUTH and ROLE MODELS
Growing up did you have a role model that influenced the trajectory of your career?
The most prominent influence by far would be my grandfather and grandmother. They helped to shape the ideals of the people around us, including family and friends. Being pioneers of many things in their own right, they introduced unique and existing experiences to a community. The two of them together played an important role in the personal growth and and success of others, all the while nurturing their own home.
Who was your first crush?
My initial first crush was probably some kid in Pre-K or grammar school. Then in high school there was this boy named Hunter who I was always in every class with and we both were in the same after school clubs, honors club, and choir. He always dressed well, and sometimes we would end up wearing the same thing and he would even snub me. He also had really great hair and wore the most beautiful turtlenecks. Sorry I’m rambling! Then it was Ricky Martin when I got a little older and in tune with my body and sexual preferences.
How does your identity as a British West Indian influence your creative process?
Our culture – our languages and religions, food, festivals, art forms, values, customs, sports and other forms of self expression – is a dynamic one. Shaped by the historical experience of our people, our faiths and our creativity, it continues to be fashioned by our creative energies and other influences – that is what I love about my people. Festivals and celebrations give us the opportunity to showcase our creative energies. As in other parts of the world, many of the region’s festivals and celebrations are associated with events of religious significance. Carnival, for example, one of the powerful symbols of our culture, has its origins in Europe and Roman Catholicism and has been heavily influenced by African traditions.
What’s your earliest memory of identifying with being Queer through art and what was your relationship with Queer culture?
Simply defining queer art as art made by people who are homosexual or lesbian, is as reductive as defining queer people as those who have same-sex relationships. Whilst love, sex and desire are often themes within queer art, it is problematic to focus merely on this. Whilst gender and social sexuality are performative, at some point they became natural expressions of who I was. Is there something inherent in a queer aesthetic and if so, who determines and regulates this? My self-realization happened when I embraced that I was the embodiment of production, reproduction and representation and I had seen this in the practice and language of artists whose work felt familiar to me.
What advice would you give your adolescent self?
I would tell my younger self to live in my truth, even when it seemed uncomfortable. Most of the things I love about myself now are things I was constantly fighting to change and hide. I would tell my younger self, “I’m setting you free!”
“Communication gives you agency. Once you are able to take action, be effective and influence your own life, then you have the capacity and psychological ability to impact others.”
ARTISTRY and ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Having worked as a model, have you noticed a power shift in the industry where models, such as Munroe Bergdorf, are taking ownership of their future and responsibility for their influence. What do you think has been the catalyst for this reclamation of power?
I believe the catalyst for this shift in the industry has come from social media and voices such as Munroe Bergdorf using their own platforms for advocacy and awareness. She has shined light on a narrative of new ideas and information such as social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious perception.
What role does art and communication play in America’s politically polarized culture?
Art encourages us to cherish intuition, uncertainty, and creativity and to search constantly for new ideas; artists aim to break rules and find unorthodox ways of approaching contemporary issues. Communication gives you agency. Once you are able to take action, be effective and influence your own life, then you have the capacity and psychological ability to impact others.
How do you define success and what advice would you have for someone who conforms to the conventional way of life, however, dreams of an entrepreneurial career?
I think there has to be a balance when defining what success looks like. Of particular importance is the practical need for some level of financial success, especially if art is your primary source of income; and the more idealistic type of success comes from doing work you’re proud of. Ask yourself, “Does this work make me happy?”
How do you think the landscape of Queer art has changed over the past decade and what aspects or narratives do you hope are introduced in the future?
There’s yet more work to be done, although in the past decade we’ve seen more safe spaces and inclusive environments and artists are using their platforms to reach mainstream consciousness.
As a Creative Director, what do you look for in a brand, artist or creative project that makes it iconic?
You have to compel people with your story and build an emotional connection.
What’s your Go-To track for working out?
I like the classics so I must say “Push It” by Salt N Pepa.
“Simply defining queer art as art made by people who are homosexual or lesbian, is as reductive as defining queer people as those who have same-sex relationships. Whilst love, sex and desire are often themes within queer art, it is problematic to focus merely on this.”
The question you would most like to ask others?
The question I would like to ask others is, “How is your heart?” It’s important that we check in with one another and operate from a place of compassion and not fear, you never know what a person is going through.
Are there any young creatives that make you excited for the future?
I’ve recently discovered two young black female composers, Jordan Miller and Camryn Cowan, both aged 11, who wrote original pieces for the New York Philharmonic. Each one of them has such a unique way of conveying ideas and feelings through musical expression. I can only imagine the trajectory of their careers and impact on classical music in the years to come.
Fitness goals for 2018?
Fitness goals for 2018 – simply just to do my best at staying in shape, eating right, and maintaining a healthy balance in work and life.
What are you currently reading, listening and devoted to?
This may come across heavy, although I just picked up Alex Haley’s ‘Roots’ again.
What would you graffiti on the back of a toilet door?
“Please remain seated throughout the entire performance!”