'I hope my audience feels included': Jammie Holmes' detailed paintings tell stories of American history, ritual and joy
Born and raised in Thibodaux, LA, Jammie Holmes today lives in Dallas, Texas. He first picked up a brush in 2017 and utilised the act of painting as a way of therapy, "a way to express myself", he says.
"Coming from a small city and a single mum, many kids in my neighbourhood felt like they needed to grow faster or 'man up'. So with that, your emotions must be shoved down so they don't exist. With art, I could find a voice for myself and others."
Through his detailed and tactile paintings, Jammie tells stories of ups and downs – the celebrations and struggles – of everyday life for many black families living in the Deep South. He grew up just 20 minutes from the Mississippi River, surrounded by the "social and economies consequences of America's dark past", as stated in his website bio. It's in this very pocket of America – known as the Sun Belt – where reminders of slavery remind us, plus labour union conflicts coming and going since the Thibodaux Massacre in 1887, a magnanimous event that saw 60 African-Americans killed in a mass shooting. With this in mind, Jammie strives to tell stories of family, ritual and tradition – painting the smaller, pleasantly mundane moments of connection between his subjects; cooking, drinking, sitting and reading The Bible.
A typical day for Jammie, then, involves his habitual Starbucks and some music. A daily tradition, this gets the cogs turning and sends him into a state of calm – the perfect concoction to start painting. "Most of the time in music, I can hear key words that spark a memory and, from there, the creative idea starts," he says. "With my work, I feel the rhythm of the music leaves an imprint on the canvas. When I'm finished with the work, I love to give it a sound check. It's a process where nothing is playing, or no one is in my studio or calling my phone. I listen to the sound of the canvas. Listen for voices, music and the poetry that the canvas has to express to me. With that, I hope others can take the time to feel and hear the same thing."
There's much to learn, hear and observe from Jammie's creations. Not only does he put expertly paint depictions of people, place and history, but he also and another dimension – one of sound. Whatever you might hear or see from these works, Jammie hopes you'll feel like you're part of the story. "I hope the ones from my background feel like they understand, and I hope the ones that never experienced it feel like they are being educated," he shares. "I want my work to be like the times the slaves and native Americans told stories of their culture around the campfire. I hope my audience feels included. Not all can afford to buy art, so for me as an artist, I feel I should always give something for free: an experience that the audience can take home with them and pass down the stories to their family through generations."