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Interview: James Jaxxa

1) Could you introduce yourself? Where did you study art and when did you first see yourself as an artist?

Hello, I’m James Jaxxa. I live in New York City. I’ve studied art in a variety of settings. I am currently enrolled in the MFA program at the School of Visual Arts. I’ve always seen myself as an artist, but it has taken courage and time to live an integrated life as an artist.

2) What is Pink Football about? How is gender a social construction? Is sex also "cooked" like gender, or is it biological, in your opinion?

I have enjoyed re-imagining quintessentially masculine sports objects while challenging constructs of gender. I don’t feel it matters how gender develops or evolves in someone, everyone should simply be respected for who they are.

Pink Football, 2004, sequins, glass beads and straight pins on regulation size NFL football, 6-1/8” x 11” x 6-1/2

3) Do you think there is a core to one's identity, or are all of our identities and experiences inscribed on the surface of the body, without there being a need for a core (as discussed by Judith Butler)?

I feel there is a core to one’s identity, but I also feel it can change significantly as one ages.

4) When did you shift the subject of your art to focus on the theme of the queer/gay (LGBTQIA+) experience? What prompted this shift? How does "Artificial World" series, which is one of your older works and does not comment on the queer/gay topics, still relate to your current body of work (in terms of the use of materials and symbols, for example)?

I do not feel I have shifted my art solely to the theme of queer/gay (LGBTQIA+) experience. I strive to make artwork that resonates with all humans.

Dance Portals, 2022, UV resistant ink and reflective beads on aluminum, 80 x 30 x 1/16 inches each

5) What are some consistent materials, images, and themes that appear in your art? I see lots of glitters, androgynous faces wearing makeup, nudity, and abundance of pink and neon colors. Why do you choose to use these colors and materials in your art?

I enjoy using color and reflective materials in my artworks. I’ve asked myself why I find these materials so seductive, it’s just part of my inner core.

6) Can you talk more about your series titled, "Defense & Patriotism?" Are the figures in the work, "Firefighters #3," enlarged sculptures or are they close up photographs of small toy soldiers? What would happen to the psychology of the military if its insignia or logo was a flower rather than an eagle?

I grew up in an Air Force family and it impacts the way I see the world and how I make art. “Firefighters” are small readymade toys with garlands of beads. Perhaps the military could adopt a flower as an insignia in a subversive way, fooling enemies about their true strength.

A-9 Flowerhawk, 2007, paper, foil, tape, staples, plastic beads and sequins, dimensions variable, 18" x 36" x 2" as shown

7) Why is image - whether it's masculine or feminine or gay or trans - so important in our lives? Is it because we humans are capable of abstract reasoning and metaphorical understanding? How is an image constructed, like language, through binary opposition and hierarchy? What is the process of connotation and denotation and how do they influence our interpretation of the things in the world?

Applying rules and systems to life helps humans make sense of the world.

8) Who are some of the other theories and philosophers that are important to your art practice?

Dalai Lama and Oprah Winfrey.

Earth Evolves #13, 2019, Crayon, glitter, medium and permanent marker on archival pigment print, 8 x 10 inches

9) Who are some of the artists who influence your art and whom you follow? Is Mike Kelley one of them?

Yes, Mike Kelley is one. A few others are, Jim Lambie, Marilyn Minter and Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt.

10) What are your dreams for the future? What are your plans for the next 5 years?

Finish my MFA, take care of myself and others, express gratitude, find joy, create art and show it.

Installation view of studio at School of Visual Arts, Fine Arts Department, 2021, mixed media, 72 x 65 inches

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