The Queue: Nneka Jones
The Queue: Nneka Jones
Discover what individuals from our craft community are into right now.
Introducing the Gift series of The Queue
A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, the Gift series of The Queue introduces you to the artists featured in the most recent issue of American Craft. We invite these inspiring individuals to share personally about their lives and work as well as the projects, books, podcasts, and more that are inspiring them right now.
When art can amplify a cause
Featured in a Maker Spotlight in our December/January issue, Nneka Jones is a Trinidadian artist and activist based in Tampa, Florida. We also got to know Nneka through a Maker x Marcus interview while she was exhibiting in our Craft Bash 2020 online marketplace. @artyouhungry
How do you describe your work or practice in 50 words or less?
I am a contemporary activist artist who uses mixed media artwork as a vehicle for social change. I experiment primarily with hand embroidery techniques to marry portraiture and symbolism. This captures the attention of the viewer and helps spread awareness about important topics that are often overlooked in society.
During this time of isolation and social unrest, where are you finding beauty and how are you staying grounded?
COVID-19 has brought me closer to the embroidery community. I have not only discovered a more personal connection with my artwork but I have also connected with other embroidery artists and worked with other activists within the community. This reminds me that I am not alone during this time and of the power that art has in creating unity.
On the theme of our December/January issue, what does giving mean to you and your work, particularly during this challenging year?
During such a difficult year, it was hard for people to give not only mentally but also financially. Fortunately for me, I was able to find a way to use my artwork to give people a sense of hope and optimism for a brighter future. Working with a large publication such as Time magazine to produce the cover artwork for the issue curated by Pharrell Williams was a symbol of giving hope on a global scale.
What has been the biggest barrier you've had to break through to get to the place you’re at with your career?
The biggest barrier I have faced so far was losing my graduation and final exhibition due to COVID-19. Within a matter of days, my family was no longer allowed to visit me in the US from Trinidad, and the artwork that I had worked on during my senior year would not be seen at my BFA graduation show. However, I used this moment to fight even harder for my art career and continued making artwork and using social media as my gallery to exhibit. It was through this that I was able to land large collaborations with Time, Adobe, and the Washington Post.
Washington Post commissioned Nneka to create this portrait of Vice President–elect Kamala Harris.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Washington Post
What’s an exhibition or art project you think the world should know about?
The 2020 SHINE Mural Festival @shineonstpete was different from any other year that the mural had taken place. This year, as an invited artist, I was required to #paintforapurpose. The mural meant more than just a pretty wall and was used to spread awareness about the importance of environmentalism and being knowledgeable about our environment and the ocean. This allowed 12 artists to paint focusing on the theme of art activism and producing 12 walls in St. Petersburg that will have the community talking about ways to improve their sustainability.
What book should we be reading or paying attention to right now?
This year I launched my first book, entitled Targeted Truth. The book focuses more on my discovery of embroidery and how my series of hand–embroidered works developed over time. I believe that this book is important because it not only gives exclusive photos of progress shots of my work but it also highlights the issues that my work brought awareness to, such as sex trafficking and sexual abuse. These are important topics, especially right now.
I have not only discovered a more personal connection with my artwork but I have also connected with other embroidery artists and worked with other activists within the community.
Inspired by the people featured in The Queue?
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