"It's a good place for artists to explore – those tender, unsure, and vulnerable places within ourselves. For one thing, it keeps us all humble. One thing I’ve noticed in these explorations [is that] we get universal. I often say to my students, "Your very individual story is what’s going to become your universal story." Students often want to create this revolutionary thing, but what we find in the moments of exploring our individuality is our universality." – Jacqueline Bishop
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Jacqueline Bishop is a social leader, daughter, aunt, professor, writer, poet, and international multimedia artist. She attended Lehman College for her undergraduate degree in psychology, completed her MA in studio art at New York University, and earned her MFA in fine arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is the author of several books and has won several awards, including the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature and the Canute A. Brodhurst Prize. Although this article could easily be an exploration of her lists of accolades, frankly, her achievements are overshadowed by her personality, life, and thematic concepts in the best of ways. After all, the art begins with the artist.
Jacqueline was raised in Kingston, Jamaica, where she lived well into her teenage years. As a kid, she was eager to become a medical doctor. While the pursuit to become a doctor went well into her college years, art was always buzzing around her. First, she was a writer; she journaled and wrote poems, which complemented her desire to shoot photography. In the years ahead, she’d find herself painting flowers, creating patchworks, and making ceramics. Though she would eventually become a proficient multimedia artist, it was the women in her formative years who ensured this openness to create.
 "From the women in my life, I learned the importance of perseverance and hard work. Having work or being a laborer did not exclude one from being a creative individual. My mother, and my grandmother, were all women who worked outside the home, yet they made the most fabulous art pieces, whether it was patchwork or crotchet. They made a place for me in their homes to draw and paint."
 She goes on to describe the generational foundations of her creativity.
 "So, you have my great-grandmother, who was a market woman, and her greatest aspiration for her daughter, my grandmother, was to get her out of the fields. When my grandmother was born in the 1930s, being a housekeeper, especially for a white family, was considered prestigious. In the same way, the market woman runs through every Jamaican person, the housekeeper runs through every African American person. My grandmother went off, and she was a housekeeper for a lot of her life, and my great-grandmother thought that was quite an accomplishment because she wasn't in the fields. My grandmother wanted for my mother to be an office worker instead of a housekeeper, so my mother went off and became a secretary. My mother wanted her children to have college degrees, and my generation wished for people to be free to be artists if they chose to. Although, all along, in this line of descent, people were always making art. So, what I learned from these women was that you could have a practical labor-intensive job, such as being a market woman, while still being an artist at the same time." 
In more than three hours of interviewing Jacqueline, I was not only impressed by her humility, given her level of success, but also inspired by her ability to contextualize difficult subjects. 
Khalil Jannah: At what point did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Jacqueline Bishop: I still struggle with it. I am an avid, avid detective-show watcher. I particularly love British shows where I can never seem to guess who the murderer is. There are moments when I'm thinking, "But why didn't I ever become a detective (laughs)?" But I think the turning point for me was as an undergraduate when I was set on going to medical school, even though I was just horrible in the sciences. I remember a nun saying to me, "Well, why don't you take a semester and just do the things you love?" And that was that.
K: You said that people will look at you strangely if you say you want to be an artist and stuff like that. My friends and I have had a ridiculous number of people comment and aspire to do what we are doing. I often don't know what to say except "follow your gut." What would you suggest to someone who fears belonging to an artist community just because they'll be outcasted or they'll be an outsider? 
JB: But I feel like I'm an outcast. I feel like I'm an outcast, even within the Caribbean art community. I'm not sure why. I know there is an "in group," and I'm not a part of it (laughs). I don't even care to be honest; being an outsider is not necessarily a bad thing. You are freer. You get to do what you want. There are no expectations. You set and chart your own path.
K: What were your difficulties when becoming an artist?
 JB: I struggled with myself, and I struggled with how I would be seen by society. Those struggles continue. I have chosen to live my life as a single woman, and everybody questions that. Why aren't you married? Why don't you have children? There was a lot of having to explain why I prioritized this lifestyle, and there’s a sense that I'm selfish for having done that. I get that all the time, 24/7, seven days a week. People don't seem to understand that I really need quiet to hear myself think and to hear that still, small voice within. Those are just the choices I've made, and they're no more selfish than people who choose to have ten children, but it's what I get a lot of all the time.
 K: So, you work in poetry, writing, patchwork, ceramics, photography, and script. How does your work across different mediums influence each other?
Read more at TheStudioPotter

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