Featured photo: Artist Jasmine Best in the GROW residency studio space. (photos by Juliet Coen)
From May 31 through June 26, textile and fiber artist Jasmine Best will be producing new work as part of the Greensboro Residency for Original Works at the Greensboro Cultural Center. On Thursday, Best will be hosting a meet-the-artist event from 6-8 p.m. She will also be in the studio for First Friday from 5-9 p.m. As part of her residency, Best will be offering workshops in fiber arts including fabric plants. Workshops are free but registration is encouraged at jasminebest.com/growresidency. To learn more about studio hours and Best’s upcoming exhibit, visit creativegreensboro.com.
Congratulations on the residency. Tell me about it and what kind of work you’ll be making.
The GROW residency focuses on community engagement, so I wanted to create a more social-practice oriented piece. A lot of my work draws from personal memory, and I wanted to open up my practice to take in what I hear from the community. Often times people will tell me stories of what my art reminds them of, and I’ve never before recorded those stories. I wanted something that opened up my practice to the city of Greensboro.
This particular exhibition will hopefully be shaped on the idea of caring. Earlier this year I started creating pieces that linked my lack of self-caring to how to I cared for my house plants. I realized that I used them to set a gauge to check in on myself. The exhibit will be about how we care for other things instead of ourselves and how we can link it back to caring about ourselves.
I’m curious in what ways people care for themselves, or what are they good at caring about or what are they bad at caring about. I’m hoping to turn these into pieces that are similar in aesthetics to fabric plants that I’ve made before by mixing what people are telling with text as image with these fabric plants.
Tell me about your background and your work.
So I mainly do fiber and textile installations. My art practice is based in Black, Southern, femme identity. I consider my work to be Southern, and I’m a truly Southern artist. For me that means a focus on storytelling, and not shying away from the legacy of slavery in the South. A lot of my work is rooted in memory.
Back to this idea of self-care, describe how you came up with this idea.
I imagine everyone was really struggling for different reasons for taking care of themselves or their loved ones during the pandemic whether it was physically or mentally or a mixture of both.
For me, it was a lot of knowing when to disengage from what I was seeing online and out in the world and taking time to just be by myself. It was also a matter of creating boundaries, really — creating boundaries socially as well as with work and knowing when to check in with myself.
I was seeing that I was checking in with my plants and my garden but noticing that I wasn’t checking in with myself with same level of care. I knew what a wilted leaf meant, but I wasn’t giving that same sort of meticulousness with myself. I think it’s easy to ignore ourselves; it’s easy to think that this body is just a machine that will keep going without fuel or the limited amount of fuel.
So what changed?
For me, since it was easier to see signs of things outside of myself, I could say, ‘Well, my plants are wilting,’ and I noticed that I wasn’t watering my plants when I wasn’t feeling well. So I would water my plants and then make sure I was getting water. If I had to move my plants, it was a seasonal checkmark. So I’m thinking, What do they need? A lot of plants don’t do well in the winter and a lot of people get seasonal depression when it gets darker outside, so I was conserving my energy, not going out as much.
How do you hope to use this idea of self-care to engage with the community?
I’m hoping to start gathering information from the public as well as hosting series of workshops, like a leaf-making workshop to paint or embroider things onto the leaves. For the plant-making workshops, we’ll be making small plants which includes a lot of hand sewing which I find to be a good time to meditate and reflect on yourself. I’m hoping to use what I’m learning from the community to work in other people’s thoughts and words to leave a larger work. I am leaving Greensboro, and I would love to have a series of work that reflects my community.
Where will you be going?
I will be starting an MFA program at the University of Georgia in Athens. It’s a three-year program that’s very interdisciplinary. I’ll be focusing on expanding my work, medium use, printmaking, sculpture, possibly even jewelry-making. I think this is a great time to focus on my art practice.
How long have you been in Greensboro?
I’ve been in Greensboro for close to eight years. I moved here for school and went to UNCG and then I stayed. I have honestly fallen in love with this city; it’s kind of obnoxious. I tell people about how we have the best restaurants and parks. Also the art community in Greensboro is lowkey a family. We look out for each other; everyone is a person or two away from being connected. The city has been so great to me.
Why do you create art? Why is it important?
Artmaking is still a form of self-care for me. It’s the closest thing I can think of as meditation. It’s something I would do no matter where I was at in my life. If I could not create art, I feel like my life would feel stagnant. If I go too long without creating art, there’s something wrong that I need to check in with.
Art is something that’s always been in my life. I’ve always been involved in the arts since I was born, so I don’t know what my life would look like without actively pursuing or practicing art — it’s part of who I am.
In general, I think art allows us to talk about things with people that’s harder to do otherwise. I think it’s one of the best forms of communication we as humans have. I think it’s important now because now there’s so many means to disrupt communication, there’s so many means to twist communication, so many ways to dissuade honest communication or clear communication.
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