entrance to the Storytelling Studio

Meet Storytelling Studio Artist Jazz Holmes

Portrait of artist Jazz Holmes.

Image courtesy of Jasmine Holmes.

Denver-based artist Jazz Holmes will be in the Storytelling Studio conducting demos on March 19 and 20 and April 2 and 3. The Storytelling Studio is included with general admission, which is free for members and youth age 18 and younger.

She creates colorful mixed-media works depicting textiles, fashion, and staple food ingredients that sustained her throughout her upbringing. Her drawings and paintings are a love letter to her southern Black heritage, and showcase the tangled threads that link to her ancestral land and how society consumes these aspects of Black culture for profit. Read on to learn more about Jazz and what inspires her:

What will your demo at the DAM look like? What can visitors expect?

My demo will be showcasing my process as a mixed-media drawing artist. Visitors can expect to see the usage of various media such as watercolor, gouache, ink, pencil, and digital means. I will be explaining why I use these media while demonstrating the layering process that goes into my work.

The Studio is currently focused on storytelling, how does storytelling relate to your work/demo?

The work I create is meant to be a lens into another realm of reality, one that tells the story of the wonders of my culture in every aspect. I believe storytelling is the greatest gift that our ancestors passed down to us. My entire praxis is to continue this tradition and transport the viewer somewhere that feels both new and familiar.

Where do you go for inspiration? What themes and topics are you currently exploring?

Having grown up in the South, I was always inspired by our music, especially Jazz, Blues, and Hip-hop, as well as the beautiful hair culture surrounding me, like the Bonner Brothers. It wasn’t until recently, while searching within for the deepest connection, that I found my biggest inspiration: food. Being a product of diaspora, the disconnect from my background has been a persistent part of my life. But food…food transcends. There are so many dishes and ingredients that have been passed down and I’ve never truly understood why we eat them. The food we eat is a direct connection to my ancestors and to a homeland I’ve never been able to experience. These are the themes I’m exploring recently.

You use many bright hues in your work. What draws you to such vibrant colors?

I use bright colors in my work because of how loud they are. Where I grew up wasn’t very uplifting to folks like me. I was often told ridiculous things meant to diminish my presence and confidence. My peers would often tell me that Black folks can’t wear gold or bright colors as they’re too “loud” and “ghetto.” I’ve spent too much of my life making myself small and diminishing my presence this way. The pieces I create are as bright and colorful as I can make them. They are loud, bold, and in your face, just like my passion.

Is there anything else you want visitors to know about you or your work?

I want everyone to know that there are many stories behind my work; so much history that is laced with tragedy and generational trauma. While these conversations must be had and my pieces hope to bring them to the table, our pain is not our history. There are centuries of brightly colored textiles, food spiced with wonderful marriages of ingredients, jovial music, earthshaking dances, and hair that grows towards the sun. My work first and foremost is a love letter to my heritage. It’s meant to be a celebration that spreads happiness, and will continue to tell stories to future generations