Art is life and now it is on show
In preschool, Jahbarri Wilson was asked to draw a Gombey. To everyone’s amazement, his was “better than the teacher’s”.
Not even five, he remembers realising the significance of his achievement.
“I said, ‘OK, I’ve found out what I want to do for the rest of my life’.”
The 21-year-old is one of four artists featured in 441, an exhibit now on at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.
Self-taught, he thinks he may have inherited his talent from his uncles, Omar and Reginald Wilson.
Both were keen artists although Reginald took it a step further, studying at an art school in New Jersey.
“They both always made sure I had a drawing book in my hand when I was with them, and a pencil and pen,” Jahbarri said. “They kept nurturing me and pushing me.”
Although always interested, his commitment to art wavered while a student at CedarBridge Academy.
Renewed focus came once he began volunteering at Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation.
The Devonshire non-profit took him on full-time after he graduated in 2016 and then another opportunity came his way, courtesy of Bermudian designer Khamari Greaves.
“I showed him my work and he kind of just dropped me in [Los Angeles], in the mix with all his friends, and they took me under their wing,” Jahbarri said.
The introduction exposed him to fine art in all its forms.
“For about two years I’ve been learning bits and pieces about everything I can,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to become the best me I can become, to bring my reality to reality.
“I have a reality in my head and I’m trying to make it the real reality. [Everything I learn in LA] might just all stick and I might just do everything.”
The opportunity to show as part of 441, his first exhibit, came through Flora Goodall who leads Masterworks’ special exhibitions and events.
“I’d come back from LA and me and a few other co-workers at Kaleidoscope were helping a friend, Shanna Hollis, take her art to Masterworks for the Charman Prize last June,” the artist said. “This little lady came up to me and asked, ‘Are you @iusecnre on Instagram? I’ve been following you for a while and I’m a fan of your work.’”
Then came the invitation to show his work with Je-Shae Pace, De’Javon Paynter and Toni Tonae. “I love that this person sees what I’m trying to do and is helping me push forward in my goals,” said Jahbarri, who didn’t know the other artists prior to the show.
At last week’s opening he unveiled eight pieces — six prints and two canvases.
“Opening night was amazing. The whole building was filled with love and support.
“I didn’t have any jitters or anxiety. I was talking all night.
“People who know me were excited that I finally did it, that I was finally doing what I want to do.
“People who didn’t know me were just amazed. The other artists were amazing too. It was a great mix.”
Jahbarri’s uncle, Reginald,- could not attend the opening but he could tell his uncle Omar was pleased.
“They’re both cool cats,” he said. “It’s hard to read them but I know they were proud [that I did it]. They don’t have to say anything.”
The artist has a heavy schedule before he returns to LA in a few months: a solo show is in the works and he’s working on a mural for the City of Hamilton at Tills Hill.
Apart from that, he has his work at Kaleidoscope where he’s inspired by his students.
“Kids and art are my No 1 inspiration,” he said. “They’re free with their art. They’re creative.
“They see no wrong turn, no wrong colour, they just go and they have confidence that their art is exactly like what they were trying to do.
“I’m teaching kids from the age of two though to middle school: mosaics, arts and crafts, fun things they can learn something from while also enjoying art. Art is always that blah subject in school. Everyone else is not as passionate as you.
“If you don’t have that confidence to put in your art, then it’s gonna show [in your art].”
• Follow Jahbarri Wilson on Instagram: @iusecnre. 441: 4 Artists, 4 Styles, 1 Show runs at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art through February 10
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