The Black Experience Told in Quilts and Oil Pastels in ‘Markings’

The Indianapolis-born artist is bringing his unique textile-based artwork and oil pastel drawings to Detroit.

Photo Courtesy of PLAYGROUND DETROIT. Julian Jamaal Jones is an African American interdisciplinary artist and fashion photographer.

Artist and Quilter Julian J. Jones is bringing his work to Detroit for an exhibition titled “Markings.” It’ll feature quilted and gestural abstract artworks influenced by traditional African American quilting, particularly “The Gee’s Bend Quilters” from the Pettway Plantation in Wilcox County, Alabama. The exhibit will open on Sept. 9 at the Playground Detroit on 2845 Gratiot Avenue. According to Jones, the term “mark” is a reference to both the emotional effect of his upbringing and his sketching of his experiences as a Black man.

“I grew up in a strict, Christian household on the northside of Indianapolis, in a predominantly white neighborhood. Raised in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, I learned the value of the Black community. But surrounded by whiteness, I dealt with loneliness and social anxiety,” Jones wrote in his artist statement for the exhibit. “I didn’t want to be seen or identified by my white peers. After school, I would recuperate by watching 106 & Park on BET Watching videos of Lil’Kim, Missy Elliot, Crime Mob, and Lil Wayne, I witnessed people who looked like me. 106 & Park introduced me to Black hip-hop culture, which influences all aspects of my practice.”

Complementing the quilt artworks are gestural oil pastel drawings. The collection allows viewers to gain insight into Jones’ creative style which heavily relies on textile design, craftsmanship, composition, and color theory. His creations embrace and combine an aggressive mixing of colors, shapes, and forms produced from sheer creative intuition by fusing unique textiles with solid materials. They break the rules of physics — following neither up nor down — and defy gravity to get past the viewer’s defenses and start a discussion about my experience as a person of color.

“I best express myself through sketching. My drawings are colorful, abstract, gestural, and ultimately unexplainable. Even I can’t quite comprehend what comes out of my sketchbook. Due to my learning disability, drawing has been my most direct form of communication. I approach the making of quilts as a sketching process, working quickly to creatively process the sense of alienation that comes from being a Black man in white spaces,” Jones said.

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