Black is Beautiful: Artwork by Jordan Hendrickson
July 20th, 2020
Interview by Maya Heins
Artwork by Jordan Hendrickson
Jordan Hendrickson is a young Black artist originally from New York City but now living and working in Boston, Massachusetts. Friendly, charming, and clearly quite talented, he is currently studying animation, however his background and foundation in the arts lies in painting. It’s clear to see that he has a deep seated passion for the arts and the ways in which art can bring about social change and spark powerful conversations. He shared some of his beautifully rendered portraits of African American men and women with Inflections, and recounted some of his opinions on current political events happening in the United States, as well insights into his artwork and process. Keep reading to learn more about Jordan and how you can support him in his pursuit of creating compelling artwork!
Where does your inspiration come from?
I guess in terms of what’s going on with this movement and what’s going on with America right now, I think something like that is hard to look away from, so I have either been drawing a lot about it or just been thinking a lot about it so my art and stories reflect that. For the most part, when I see something that is beautiful, I want to draw it.
You titled the pieces of artwork that you submitted for Inflections “Black is Beautiful”, does this have any connection to the Black is Beautiful art movement from the 60s & 70s (https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog-post/black-beautiful-emergence-black-culture-and-identity-60s-and-70s)?
Yes and no, it’s more that especially now in this time, it’s important to realize that it isn’t kitsch to draw someone of color- it just should be art. I am big into equity, and I draw a lot of people who are not of color or white. I just wish there was a platform where People of Color could have the same voice. It’s cool now that after so many years of not hearing that voice, we’re kind of catching up now.
What is your perspective on current events happening across the globe relating to #BlackLivesMatter? Big takeaways, things that you are excited about, things you’ve learned, concerns?
I am excited about the law- I think the biggest way to create change is to change the law. It is really hard to change someone’s mind about something if they are set in their ways. But if you change the law, and tell someone that it is illegal for them to act in a certain way, that is so much more tangible. What we are seeing now in America, they are making very specific laws to combat brutality and discrimination from police. I think that’s the biggest step we’re gonna make. I think once I am long gone, we might start talking about changing the hearts and minds of people, but for right now, I’ll take legislation.
Do you think it stops with police brutality laws, or do you think that this could potentially be the start of a complete justice system reform?
It’s sort of like the #MeToo movement, where it started just in film, with Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Louis CK, and grew into looking at ourselves in everything and how we treat women in the workplace. I think if the #BlackLivesMatter movement keeps its interaction that #MeToo had at its height, I think you could see more conversations happening and people reflecting on themselves. Did what I say perpetuate white supremacy in some way, or did me wearing black face on this TV show 20 years ago, was that offensive? I am honestly less concerned about that stuff, I care if cops are killing people.
How do we keep the positive change going?
I think the only positive thing about the Covid-19 pandemic, is that since everyone is kind of staying in one spot, and they are forced to look at their phones and at each other a lot now, the emptiness and solitude of Covid-19 has helped the movement a lot. I think if George Floyd was killed six months ago, no one would care. But because he was murdered in the height of Covid-19, everyone is like okay, we are all seeing this together, let’s do something about it now. I think once things open up again it might fall out a little bit, which is why I am applauding the NBA and Women’s Basketball for saying maybe we shouldn't play this year since it would be a distraction from what’s going on. But I think the best way to keep going is to just keep talking about it. If your friend makes a joke, tell them that wasn’t funny and here’s why. Or talk to your mom or dad, by telling them ‘hey, what you just said wasn’t ok’. These types of uncomfortable conversations that we’re having on the side are important because they are keeping it in people’s brains a little bit longer. And also marching, protesting, and donating, all the small things that add up, go a long way.
What role do you think art plays in transforming culture?
I think it’s everything- I think so many conversations that we have about society are because of a movie that we saw that made us uncomfortable, or a political cartoon or a book we read or whatever. I think it's the perfect gateway to talk about politics and social issues. Recently I saw a painting of Elijah McCain, a Black kid who was murdered pretty recently. I saw him in a painting, a cartoon about his life, and I was like “Woah”. If I had just seen his picture without seeing the art I might not have clicked on it and stopped and read about his life. So yeah, I think art means everything for social issues.
How has your art been a way for you to engage with current events?
To be honest, it actually doesn’t as much as I want it to. My art isn’t usually very reactive. But it is in my mind when I do create art. What could this mean for someone? My next film that I just finished is about bias. It kind of fits with this narrative that we are talking about now. Sometimes art isn’t about being political, but it's more about making it for yourself.
Can you expand a bit more on the projects you are currently working on?
Sure, I am currently working on a project called the “Ballad of Joe Pass”. There is a teaser on my website. It’s a trailer about a white guitarist, who played with people like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday and a lot of Black artists. I kind of just imagined what it was like for him to walk in to like a Harlem music club at 18 as this white Jewish kid. For him to be judged by his appearance and then to be rectified by his art. To fit in because he could play. It is a kind of reverse dialogue about race and bias, but it is a cool concept to think about. It’s a short film of about 2.5 minutes. I made it on paper, so I painted him by hand throughout the movie, so it took me three years to make the whole thing.
Is there anyway that people can support you in the art that you do?
Prints are available upon request!