How do you situate your work in the context of the current moment?
Justin Tyler Bryant (JTB): I’m sure there are some things that are making their way into my work that are a result of “the current moment,” but I’m not sure of what those things are. A lot of my work has to do with historic and personal references that reveal themselves after they have passed.
Joëlle Storet (JS): As a visual story teller, I feel obligated to use my creative experiences to document humanity through my personal lens. My objective is to strip down the viewer with a limited palette to better translate my personal responses in the moment.
What projects are you currently working on and how is social distancing affecting your art practice?
JTB: The current project I am working on is “Holman: A Living Archive,” which is a community project that centralizes art and social engagement as a key component to the revitalization of the historically black Holman High School in Stuttgart, Arkansas.
Social distancing has greatly affected this project. Primarily because I haven’t had the opportunity to see many people in the community I am working in. Aspects such as interviews and workshops I will conduct on a later date. I am currently using the material I have already compiled as a source for my drawings and paintings.
JS: I have been doing commission work since I was 9 years old. Following requests from clients has been a passion of mine. I deeply value art to invoke nostalgia. Social media has been instrumental during these uncertain times, and has served as one of the most efficient and safest tools for communication to better advertise my work. In the process I gained a receptive crowd that strongly responded and related to the work.
What advice and tips can you give to other artists during this time?
JTB: Wow, I don’t think I have advice. Maybe the advice I would give would be the thing I always tell myself and that would be “don’t stop making work.” “Work” for many artists means a lot of things, so whatever “the work” is for you, keep doing that.
JS: I highly encourage all artists and non-artists to seek creativity as the cure to problem-solving and innovation. Creativity has been born from the likes of bright minds during the darkest times. Tolerance overall is a struggle well deserved.
How are you cultivating community for yourself and what can the community be doing to support artists?
JBT: I think I’m doing the same as I’ve always done. I stay connected to other artists by sharing my work over the phone or online. I always need a second opinion and oftentimes a fourth opinion—when it comes to my work. I would say it’s my natural inclination as an artist to create community because without it I’m not sure what I’d be making.
You can support artists by thinking of yourself as an artist. Make it your responsibility to learn and be involved and to make all of the communities you are involved in better.
JS: Through compassion, empathy and understanding, the arts is a fantastic tool to rationalize one another despite our differences. It is the common denominator and language of love and understanding.
About the artists:
Justin Tyler Bryant
Born in Stuttgart, AR., Justin Tyler Bryant received his BFA in Studio Art from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2012 and his MFA in Studio Art from Louisiana State University in 2018 and was a participant at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (’17). Justin’s recent work investigates the past and present imagery of African-Americans to reflect a multi-contextual narrative of poetry, personal narrative, and history. In his work, he uses found objects, painting, drawing, and video to suggest a fugitive notion of blackness. Justin is currently a full-time instructor at University of Arkansas Pulaski Tech and is a 2019 Interchange Artist Fellow for the Mid America Arts Alliance.
You can follow Justin on Instagram @bluedrinknotredb
or check out his website: https://www.justintylerbryant.com/
Belgian-born artist Joëlle Storet moved to the United States via Austria in 2001. She took inspiration from a young age from Belgian comic illustrations and her mother Diasuka Storet designing clothes and drawing for her. She has since transmitted her Afro-European style and thematic expositions to the thriving artist community based in Northwest Arkansas. Storet graduated from the University of Arkansas with a background in Cultural Anthropology, Semiotics, Linguistics, and Art History. Her bold palette and multifarious interests have allowed her to communicate her history and community engagement through paintings, graphic design, clothing brands, murals, and a whole host of other mediums. The emblematic connection/divergence between her African roots and her African-American experiences is the thoroughfare on which she is currently exploring. She now considers Arkansas her home and has been happily living in NWA ever since.
You can follow Joëlle on Instagram @joelleelleoj and on Facebook here.