I have this uncanny obsession with Pinterest. Although I was introduced to this website a few years ago, I actively became a member less than two months ago. What I like about Pinterest is that it allows me to create digital vision boards. I can visualize my goals, as well as embrace beauty from a criterion that I have chosen. I choose the categories, the images, and the phrases for my pins and vision boards. No one can place anything on my page or rearrange my digital vision boards. However, I am able to share and exchange ideas with the larger Pinterest community. My largest category focuses on self-image, specifically women wearing natural hairstyles. I created this board because I have heard Black women expressing concern about transitioning from relaxers to natural hair. The question I continuously hear is, “How am I supposed to wear my hair, especially with my texture?” I have been wearing locs for years, so I am familiar with chemically-free and textured hair. Before locs I wore twists, an afro, and dookie braids (for those who remember Janet Jackson in the 1993 film Poetic Justice). And yes, before that, I had a relaxer.
What I wanted to do on Pinterest is offer images of all types of chemical-free, textured-hair women. However, I wanted to move beyond some of the photographs and offer artistic natural hair images that have been created in other manners (i.e. acrylic paint, watercolor, beads, fabrics, animation, and so forth).
As a result of seeking other images beyond the camera, I learned about an artist named Janine Jackson, a Florida native who started Honeybush Arts. Even the sound of Honeybush Arts, was sweet to my ears. This artwork includes acrylic and oil paints, illustrations using software applications, image-editing programs, and other materials. Her images focus on health and self-development. From one point of view you might see women of color with full lips, wide eyes, round colorful pupils, thick hair, cropped hair, wrapped hair, or no hair at all. Many of her images are filled with unique symbols ranging from a woman’s womb to Kente patterned stripes, zigzags, and words written around a woman’s face or on her body. Janine fiercely plays with the woman-image and the nature of her existence. When I see her work, I see past, present, and the possibilities of who we are publicly and privately. Moreover, I also recognize a presence of acceptance – simply, “This is who I am. And I am fine with my Being.”
©plantFolk, Janine Jackson, Honeybush Arts, 2013
Janine explained the history of Honeybush Arts. “Honeybush Arts came to me after completing a mixed media piece. It was an image of a nude black woman that I created which inspired the name. She emanated a type of sweetness and self-satisfaction that spoke to me. Shortly before that, I was gifted with an herbal tea that contained an herb called honeybush. The herb imparted a subtle sweetness to the overall flavor of the tea.”
Much of her inspiration comes from music, nature, and people. One of her most requested pieces, plantFolk, was inspired by Hip Hop artist, MF DOOM, aka Metal Fingers. “[He] created a CD entitled Special Herbs 9+0. While listening to that CD, I was able to conceptualize a visual that went on to be one of my most requested images that people proudly wore (the image was silk-screened on t-shirts).” In learning this, I was moved by how art becomes the very being we are. We create and wear our artistic expression both figuratively and literally. What was reinforced in Janine’s artwork is the intimate and personal relationship she creates with her characters. Some relationships may last, while others may be ephemeral. However, each relationship supports a process worth cherishing for that particular moment, sometimes leading to the next inspired artwork. I asked Janine about one of her favorite creations. She talked about a mixed media visual called Speak Your Truth. She shared, “It is of a woman who is looking directly at the viewer with a certainty of self on her face. On her neck are the words Speak Your Truth. She embodies what I admire in those who live according to their truths and use those truths to guide them.”
©Speak Your Truth, Janine Jackson, Honeybush Arts, 2013
What I most appreciate about Janine is the intention in which she creates her work. The beauty of what she creates comes from a personal desire to be healthy and authentic with oneself. “I create because it allows me to bring more of what I’d like to see or experience into my world. It’s empowering to be able to construct images or create experiences that enrich my life. It’s also a form of self-care for me. I create everyday in some form, whether it is through writing, preparing a meal, utilizing a fabric covering for a previously bland journal cover, twisting or braiding my hair, etc. It’s a way of life.”
Although I do not consciously do something artistic everyday, like Janine, I create. This, in itself, helps sharpen the artist-eye, which for me is my third eye. In honoring this practice I am also giving back to the self, which leads me to the wonderful life lesson Janine shared with me: “As long as I enjoy what I create, then there will be at least one other person that feels the same way. So, I continue to create what moves me.”
Janine’s work is on Pinterest. As well, her artwork graces the cover of the book Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity Health and Society by A. Breeze Harper. For more information you can contact her through Facebook.
You can also read Janine’s inspiring Love Yourself First! Friday story here.
Traci Currie is a Communication and Visual Arts lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer; performer – nationally and internationally; and published poet. She believes the PRC will help young women reach their highest potential. “This organization is about empowering women to take ownership of their lives, claim their identities and be the positive change they wish to see in the world they live.” Read her latest posts here.