Jasleen Kaur on exploring activism and heritage through art

Junior Jasleen Kaur was the first artist I interviewed for the online newspaper, and her article was the first one I wrote as part of the Wilsonville Broadcast Club. Jasleen’s portfolio as an artist has expanded exponentially since her article was published in early December and her list of recent accomplishments include having her art featured in a professional gallery and helping to design art for 15 new SMART busses. I caught up with her at the end of the semester to discuss her singular art direction and amazing achievements.

It’s been a long time since our first interview, how has your style grown since the summer?

I find that I don’t really have a style. Overtime, I have only diversified my visual language more and more. It grows not in one direction, but sort of like a tree, splitting into branches.

What piece(s) are you working on currently?

I am working on catching up in Art 4. Been doing a really bad job so far. The piece next in line is the polyptych. You know those old maps consisting of circles representing different faces of the Earth? I will use that as a template and fill in the circles with the two sides of the world that I am torn between. India and the U.S.

Your concentration is based around your cultural heritage, how have your most recent pieces reflected that?

It is hard to do art about this. I am afraid I am not fully capable of putting my confusion and anger and love into a visual format. Still working on figuring that one out. I do really love using Indian embroidery/tapestry as an influence, and I think you can see that in my peacock piece very well.

What new artists/sources of inspiration have you discovered this school year?

Activism. The artist M.I.A. has re-entered my playlists. She is a Sri Lankan refugee who has a unique voice about world issues in her music. I find how disconnected we are from the suffering of people around the world a bit concerning. It is of course relative, pain is relative. Someone who spilled their Starbucks drink has just as much a right to be pained than someone escaping a war-torn country.

Have you revisited any themes from your childhood in India for your most recent pieces?

Yes, I have been spending endless hours on Google Earth just looking around my hometown. I plan to use those maps of now blurry memories in my latest piece.

Looking back from your most current piece in your concentration to the first one, how do you feel you have improved as an artists over this last semester?

I only really have one piece fully complete in my concentration as of now. I think I have found a better way of thinking about art and my concentration. I used to look at it as if I needed 10 pieces that all looked the same stylistically and needed the same concept tying them together. Now I realize that a concentration is exploratory. I can literally do whatever I want. Grateful that my teacher is exceptional and understanding.

You and a group of student artists from Wilsonville recently worked on designs for SMART busses, tell me about the art direction.

The art club team designed a wrap for the new all electric buses that SMART is going to be bringing into Wilsonville. We decided we didn’t want it to look so stiff and graphic as the other buses look, so we ended up using watercolour and a fine art approach to make the design refreshing. Now, a student art piece is going to be on a bus that will be on the roads of Wilsonville for 15 years. The painting consists of iconic Wilsonville structures as well as Mount Hood and a crisp green-blue colour scheme that I think looks very unique. Very proud of how hard our team worked on this thing. You can expect to see it on the road this summer.

Your art was recently featured at Shotola-Hardt’s gallery! Tell me about the piece and how it came together!

The show was a collective of immigrant artworks in a time of immense divide and demonization of people like us. I did not have enough time to make a new piece for the show, so I had to submit an old one that I wasn’t too enthusiastic about. I would’ve done it differently if I had another chance, but it was a really cool opportunity and it was even more eye-opening to see the other works in the show. But yeah, my first piece in a gallery wasn’t one I really loved to be honest. Which is okay. It was still a huge milestone.

What themes and mediums would you like to explore in the upcoming semester?

I would like to go political. And be really honest and inquisitive. One of the subjects I want to explore are the sexual taboos in India. It is crazy that the country that has produced the oldest sex literature in the world is now too ashamed to talk to its children about anything relating to sexuality. Still Bollywood keeps on sexualizing women and turning them into objects and encouraging men to stalk a crush to get her attention. These are the issues that contribute to the bigger problem of rape culture in India. I could talk about this for hours.

Lastly, what advice would you give to artists on the subject of finding their voice in their art?

I don’t know, I’m very confused as well, and that’s completely healthy. Right now it is important to not take yourself too seriously. Just explore.