Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Detroit-bred Interdisciplinary Artist on Redefining Black Mythologies

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Detroit-bred Interdisciplinary Artist on Redefining Black Mythologies

Rob Lee: Welcome to the Truth in This Art. I am your host, Rob Lee, and today I'm excited to feature a conversation with a Detroit-based interdisciplinary artist celebrated for her impactful assemblages and immersive installations. Her latest exhibition, Ancient Future, is a journey through Afrofuturism, Black mythologies, time, so many different themes that are there. And the themes are presented through dynamic paintings, film explorations, and engaging installations. Please join me in welcoming the incredibly talented Jamea Richmond-Edwards, the real JRE. Welcome to the podcast.
Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me and I have to do my Detroit native greeting. Um, what up though?

Rob Lee: I'm always very curious about like sort of the you know, when people talk about culture, I'm always interested in that sort of stuff. And, you know, as a person who I'm born and bred Baltimore, East Baltimore, to be specific, and my own people don't think I'm from here because I have this voice, you know. Like you don't say dummy or nothing, son.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: I was like, what do you mean? Y'all have some interesting vernacular going on, but I rock with Baltimore. I respect the city for real.

Rob Lee: 100% and there is some and we'll definitely tap into that a little bit. There is some, you know, some overlap and some connectivity between Baltimore and Detroit. So we'll definitely talk about that a bit. But to start off as customary in doing this pod, I like to give folks the space to, you know, introduce themselves in their own words. I think You know, I can get the, you know, the artist statement, I can get the press release to cut his joint, but there's always something that's kind of kind of missed. And I remember interviewing a person and she was like, well, my first title is human. And I was like, all right, cool, let's do it. So, you know, for you, could you introduce yourself and share a bit?

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Yeah, so my name is Jameer Richmond-Edwards. I'm an artist. I'm a filmmaker. I'm a designer. And, you know, just to take it a level up, I'm a dreamer. I'm a world builder. And as of lately, I've been calling myself a cosmic stewardess where, and I don't know, can I use language in this podcast? Okay. I feel like my part of my role is to take niggas where they need to go. So, you know, that's why I like the cosmic stewardess route as of lately. So that's how I'll describe myself.

Rob Lee: I like it. I like I like the answer. You know, it's a real answer. And that's the thing that we try to do here. You know, I like, you know, you know, people give you the very polished and refined. I don't want that.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: No, it's it's it's It's still polished and refined, but I also have to, you know, I'm an 80s baby. I graduated from high school in 2000. So, you know, I feel like it's really important for my culture, excuse me, for my generation to add context to what niggas are and to not be, you know, to be unapologetic about that word. And so, you know, A lot of what inspires my work is just my love for the culture, the love for niggas. And, you know, it's a lot of respectability around that. And, you know, that's a conversation that's been going on forever. And as of lately, I'm like, you know what, I'm going to step into that and I'm going to stand on that, you know.

Rob Lee: So, yeah, I appreciate that. And yeah, I guess it is, you know, in doing this. Right. And some of the folks that I have on and some of the folks I reach out to and some of the types of conversations that I'm interested in, that doesn't always fit into the whole ability politics thing.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: And absolutely.

Rob Lee: You know, I'll say for me, like, yeah, you know, you can go to this person, go to that person. I'm actually the real person. You came to me at, you know, at the third time or what have you. And And I look at it from that way. And when I'm able to, to speak with folks that sort of these higher, more taking themselves too serious sort of people, they're like, how do you get to them?

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: So it's like my real dude.

Rob Lee: I'm actually interested in them and not what they might represent, you know?

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Rob Lee: So reflecting back a little bit, like, you know, we have these moments that are touch points, maybe super early, maybe, you know, a little bit later, what have you, that have a significant impact on what we do creatively. So what is a moment or an experience for you? Because it could be a sum of moments, but what's an experience for you that influenced you on your path as an artist, as that steward, as a creative?

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: So I'm going to actually touch on three. The first one was when I was about 16 years old. I was taking a gifted and talented class for car design here in Detroit. And it was at Wayne State University, which is a university based here in the city. And the teacher, you know, kind of stood in front of the class and said, hey, it's an exhibition in a local gallery here. And he walked us, he took us on a little mini field trip, you know, which was right down the hall from the class. And in that exhibition, that's when I first saw Renee Cox's work. And it was the painting called Deliberation of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. That was the first time, just going back, that I saw work made by a Black person, let alone a Black woman, and really contemporary artwork. And at that point in my life, I would go to the Detroit Institute of Arts, which is our fine art institute here, and I went often but I never seen work that reflected me. So that was like, that I was just really overwhelmed. Like, oh my gosh, this is art. And I remember the teacher saying, yeah, and that's the artist in the photograph. And I was just overwhelmed. Like, oh shit, this is fly. You know what I'm saying? And in terms of, like, you have to just think how impactful that was for me. My understanding of quote-unquote fine art was Van Gogh and, you know, kind of Renaissance art. And again, I'm growing up in the 90s, you know, listening to Pac, Bad Boys, you know, all those things. Seeing Renee Coxworks is just like, oh, that's This is what fine art could be. So that kind of gave me that permission. The second impactful moment was me when I entered into graduate school, which was 2010 at Howard University. And that's when my beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy dropped with Kanye West. Oh, my God. I was just like, did y'all realize, you know, for me, that was very paradigm shifting. And I also feel like it was very paradigm shifting for the culture that was equivalent to, you know, a modern times thriller. I just was like, oh shit, the music, the art direction, just the, it was, it was so good. So that had a major impact on me. And lastly, was the Beyonce concert. I have never, I wasn't a, you know, I respect Beyonce, but I'm not a fan, you know, she's, I had a couple of songs on my playlist of Beyonce, but last year I went to the concert, Renaissance, and oh my gosh, I didn't go as a fan, I went as a spectator, like, you know, I'm about to really take this in and, it just was very paradigm shifting for me. And so these moments that I just named to me were art by Black folks at the highest fucking caliber. You know what I'm saying? Like high caliber, very avant-garde, very unapologetic, very thought provoking. And so those three moments really were life changing for me.

Rob Lee: Thank you. Wow. Wow. I think, you know, you talk with folks who are we're the same tribe. We're in the same age group. It's definitely there. And, you know, definitely with because, you know, this is this is my medium, I guess the whole, you know, audio, but definitely was sort of like there's a there's a thing that I talk about, like, what's what's the work being done? Like degree of difficulty, things of that nature. And you definitely keyed in on a point. I went to Renaissance as a spectator as well. Yes. And I came out like that was a spectacle. That was just just going over all of the different things. And just like I had an experience. It wasn't like, oh, man, this song is this. I was like, no, no experience. Yes. And that's the thing. And it's like, how do you capture that? How do you model that in whatever your respective thing is? That's why I took it back from that standpoint.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: And for me, the lesson that I received from Beyonce was it's her, but it's also she tapped the smartest, baddest individuals from every genre. So just thinking from the dancers, just thinking from the costume designers, and I'm also a dance enthusiast. I follow dance culture very closely. And a lot of her dancers I've been following for years. And you know, for me, what I learned from that was like, yo, you find the best. And one of the things that I will say coming up in Detroit, just on my journey in general, I've been around a lot of, I call it a lot of G's, and by G's I mean geniuses, and we have to normalize that word. I've been kind of, what do you call it? I've been really lucky to always be in gifted and talented programs. I was in music my whole life, dance my whole life. And I just literally been around like exceptional people and you don't realize that. I didn't realize that until very recently, until I started kind of like, OK, let me go out in the world. Let me be a civilian outside of this art world. And I'm like, actually, people really do be fucking gifted. It's a lot of exceptionalism here. And I think in this Western construct that we live in, we tend to kind of like downplay that. Or people are overachievers. It's that psychology that downplay it. what I realized with the Beyonce and even looking at the Kanye and Renee and it's just like no these people are brilliant and they're surrounding themselves with the most brilliant people in their respected genres so yeah those moments were just kind of like altering.

Rob Lee: Yeah, and I think when you step into that, when you own that, you're in circles that are of that. So yes, when I'm doing this right and there are folks, it's 700 plus interviews at this point. And when I interview folks, I play the modesty game a little bit because it's just there's this almost self-deprecating way. I do it. You know, I'm more like, you know, and because I'm a perfectionist, I do it from that standpoint. But I know where it's coming from sometimes, too. And at times I just got to gas myself up and I'll talk with curators who will and I'm like, they have a certain vantage point that they're coming from or even a certain type of guests like the, you know, oh, you're a photographer or you're a visual artist and and so on and getting their perspectives on what I do. And when I talk with curators, they're like, you know, you're curating, right? Or what I just like, you know, you need to stop saying you're trying to do something you're just doing. I had that conversation with Terrell Telford. He's like, you're doing it. He's like, just you got it, bro. Or even to be very specific, when I talk to folks that look like me and you were in radio and that the sort of they're like, why aren't you in radio yet? And I'm like, look, you know, I'm told that I don't fit the thing. So I'd rather just be independent and be able to talk to the people I want to.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: That's the way you're doing it. You're doing it. Yeah, and it's really about one of the things that I've been talking about the past couple of years is. Well, the term I came up with is like submitting to my genius. A lot of times we fight it. You know what I mean? And we fight the ideas. We fight the grandeur. We fight the, you know, we fight a lot of things. And I'm 40, I'm 41. So, you know, you cross certain thresholds in life where you just like, actually, I just don't give a fuck what nobody say. I'm just about to do it. And it's, um, you know, it's really, it's really liberating. So, um, yeah, I just, I'm, I'm, I'm here and I'm, and I'm, I've been surrounded around like really dope ass people, you know?

Rob Lee: See, the number thing is so, so real, I think. I play with numerology sometimes, but definitely when it's like all eights now. And, you know, I started looking at things like I've been podcasting since, you know, 2009. And, you know, this podcast since 2019. So right there, you can see there's like a 10 years, like I was doing this for 10 years before I started. And, you know, with this particular podcast, and, you know, this was an intentional thing, like, I had all this fun doing this kind of goofy comedy podcast, which, while I enjoyed and was able to stretch my creative wings and do the pop culture thing, but I wanted to do something that spoke and, you know, sort of shared the story of the whole, just people taking weird shots at what I felt was a black city. You know, I was just like, I need to at least state my thing so people know where I stand. And I have it documented where I stand on this at this time.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Rob Lee: So I want to I want to go a little bit deeper on, you know, sort of thinking of influence and inspiration, you know, whether it be from painting, whether it be for fashion, film, music, diverse people, we have diverse interests. Where do you look for for for inspiration and sort of what are the themes that come up that are truly like, you know, interesting to you and why?

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Well, so I have two answers to that. The first one is I moved back to Detroit in what, 21, 2021, after being away for 22 years, you know. So I left high school in 2000 and I returned, so that's 21 years, excuse me. And being away and then coming back, I'm like, oh shit, Detroit is so fly. Like this is a very, unique city. And I realized that it's a lot of swag, it's a lot of cool, it's a lot of beauty in where I come from. And so I became really inspired by that. One of the things that's emerged in my work over the past couple of years is dragons and a lot of mythos, you know, what people call a mythos. But I didn't start doing dragons until I moved back to Detroit and I would walk downtown and I'm just like, well, I've never been interested in dragons and shit ever in my life. And as I began, like, just immersing myself in the city, I started noticing that the architecture here had dragons in them. It's a lot of fucking dragons and unicorns. So that perked up two things, okay? One is why i've been studying art my whole life, why we want to talk about this, who what what one, what is this. Who designed this. Why is this a secret? And more importantly, when I look at myself in relationship to the world and how the sort of energy that I vibrate on, I'm like, this is dragon energy. And from a very, from a very lame artistic perspective, when we think in terms of dragons, we think of like the Chinese dragon, you know, that's how we're Well, let me stop saying weird. That's how I've been programmed. And as I began noticing that, I'm like, oh shit, this is a whole other paradigm of the Detroit dragon. So what does that mean? So I've been in that space of like, yo, I'm a Detroit dragon. I'm about to explore this. This mythos I can't find in a book, so I need to create it myself. So I've been really inspired by the city. And when you just look at the swag and culture and energy of the city, it's been reverberating in my artwork. The other thing that I'm very inspired by since really the past six, seven years has been genealogy. So I started doing genealogy in what I was 2017, 2016, right before I went to West Africa. And before I went, I was just like, you know, I'm about to hire a genealogist. because I'm going to find my tribe. This spirit just came up. And I remember I was up in Ghana, and I received a call from my genealogist. And he was like, and this is Guy from PG, where I was teaching at the time. A PG, like an old school PG dude. He and his wife just did genealogy for fun. And he called me. He said, I need you to call me as soon as possible. And I'm like, oh shit, I'm in Africa. He about to tell me I'm adopted or some crazy shit. Long story short, I get home and he tells me like, yo, this is the craziest shit ever. I started doing your genealogy and I'm up in like the 1600s. And what's interesting is your family was A, never enslaved. Two, they were in the South. three what's going on like this is interesting so right then and there that was very it was it was like that that changed everything because i was on this hunt to understand he didn't have answers it was a quote-unquote friend that i had at the time who was a history major you know she didn't have answers so i had to go on this journey myself so you know, I've been, you know, since 2017 on this journey of just uncovering this genealogy, which essentially is uncovering who I am. And what I discovered was, as I began reading those names and those genealogical records, I began unlocking things within myself, just even saying my ancestors name, understanding the lands that they, you know, they occupied and It really shifted a lot of things in me because I became a lot more patriotic. And I would never thought, you know, like me, I've always been along the kind of, you know, like a lot of Black people, like we kind of like we tired. We are tired. But as I began understanding my genealogy, how deep it is in this country, all of, you know, Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Detroit, St. Louis. And, you know, my family fought in civil wars, the War of 1812 and so forth and so on. I'm just like, you know, there's a lot of, I have a lot of equity tied into this particular place. So my work, as I began understanding that, it's began to reflect in my work and I see the transition of me, you know, going on this journey of understanding who and more importantly, what I am. So, yeah, I forgot your question.

Rob Lee: No, no, no, no, no. That's, that's great. That's great. Because, you know, it was it was giving me like you were touching on the dragon portion. Yes. You know, it was like unlocking something. You start by looking at things and, you know. I wonder like sometimes when I have like a chance encounter with somebody, I'm like, all right, why did that come up? That was weird. And I'm like, I don't know if I connect to that. And, you know, I was doing it. I don't really trust things that, you know, I wanted to do the genealogy thing and check into it a bit further. But yeah, I would talk to these different dudes and I would just encounter them. They're like Egyptian dudes. And they would say, yeah, Boubacar. And I was like, what does that even mean? It's like bearded ones. And I was like, oh, and he's like, yo, you're one of our people. I was like, no, no, I'm just from East Baltimore. And it was like, bro, or in, you know, and I haven't gone too deep, but I did do the 23andMe and it definitely popped in like Egypt. And I was like, oh, well, and the other thing that is in his vein, like I'm an Aquarius, right. And, you know, I was joking, it's a Meek Mill lyric. It's like, I'm wavy like an Aquarius. I was like, yeah, you are. And I ended up getting this book called Ganbante, and it's about this Japanese idea of perseverance. And they used that great wave off of Kanagawa as the example of this is sort of the imagery for perseverance. And it's like, if you look close to it, people see different things. They see Fuji sun, they see Mount Fuji, they see these big waves, but in between the waves are the people canoeing. And you'll get crushed by the ways if you stop canoeing. So perseverance, perseverance. And I was like, I am that type of dude that I don't get bent out of shape and down on myself. I'm just a fighter, naturally.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Yeah.

Rob Lee: Perseverance. And I was like, this is resonating with me. And I just look at that book and I read that book and they talk about tsunamis and all about these different things. They say Gambate. You've done the work. So it's no such thing as their equivalent for like, good luck.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Wow.

Rob Lee: It's like, you're going to persevere. You're going to get through it. You've done the work. Yeah. I apply that in doing this. So whenever I'm feeling, and this is kind of a segue into this next part of the question. Yeah. When I'm feeling sort of uninspired or when I'm feeling like, all right, this might be a waste of time, energy, resources, who's listening, things of that nature. Just like, well, I'm following this. All of the other stuff is noise. So for you, within your work, within the process, because we'll get to that next, but when you're feeling, let's say, maybe not inspired or not motivated to work, how do you get through that? How do you get past that?

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: So I've been, I've literally been doing art my whole life since I was like a baby. So I've never not done it. And I think oftentimes there's this idea or this notion that I have to physically be painting or drawing in order to be working, right? And who actually told me this was Amy Sherrill, who was in Baltimore. You know, I met her up in Baltimore. One of the things she told me was just like the research that you do, like that's part of your practice. the rest, the research, the investigations. And so when I'm not working, I'm like information mining. And what that means is I'm like reading books. I'm listening to lectures. I'll go walking through the city. And like you say, you're into numerology. It's no such thing as coincidence. Like I'm a What do you call it? I'm a code reader, you know, like even from this conversation. is definitely related to the books that I've been reading, the information that I've read, and I'm sure we're going to encounter each other again over the next few months and years and so forth, which is going to make things even more clear, is I understand that this is all part of the journey. So I'm OK if I'm not painting, because I'm constantly working. Even conversations that I'm having with my husband, my children, my aunt, my niece, it's like, This is all part of it and I understand it. So it's just being like very hyper aware of things. I'm in Detroit right now, of course, and it's like the weather has been, it's brick. It is, it is, it has been brick outside and you know, like I'm taking that in, you know, just my discomfort with it, my anxiety with it. And I'm just like, oh no, this is part, these are lessons that I'm gathering here. Because for me, it's just like, we, what, what I, how I, how my brain works is like, what is this? What are we doing? Like, why are we here? Like, why are we having this conversations? And, you know, one way to look at it is we're spiritual beings having this human experience and you know, people, a lot of people around me have been dying. I'm going to just be really afraid not to be dark. It's not to be dark. It's actually beautiful. You know, they came here, did their mission and they up out of here. So I understand how limited my time is. So I'm like very, um, hyper aware of like the now, the moments. You know, so I take it all in and understanding that my time here is part of a greater mission that I'm on and that I'm just mining information. I'm mining information and experience for this particular mission, quote unquote, legacy, which is bigger than art, which is bigger than career, that I'm, you know, leaving behind. So, yeah.

Rob Lee: No, it is. And, you know, we we all encounter it because it's this this sort of push, maybe in our own unique ways, but it's this sort of push to, you know, you're not being successful if you're not doing this, if you're not making something, it's really working and it's all bullshit. And that's the thing that I encounter when, you know, like you were talking about earlier, I know you had a background in education earlier. And, you know, I've been able to do that, you know, like recently in teaching podcasting to high school students. And I'm like, yo, and I'm taking this skill that I have a decade and a half of experience in and passing it on and being able to share that. And I've had folks tell me, Oh, why are you doing that? You're wasting your time, bro. You're not 10Xing it. And I'm like, I'm getting something out of this. This is enriching the soul, even when they act like they hate me. And it's like, Mr. Rob don't know nothing. And I was like, I don't know anything. But I feel something and I get something out of it. Or even things like, I'll share this with you. I haven't even talked about this. Yesterday, I filmed a scene for a short film. And this is the second time I worked with this young director. actually the son of a guest that I interviewed. So in that next generation, right? And I've been in two projects. It's like two first small films, short films. I played myself both times. Okay. The same fit each time.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: I love it.

Rob Lee: It's great. It's like, look, I need to be in the third one, just me looking different again. But it's so enriching for me to be involved and to feel like I'm helping you achieve something. And you've thought of me in this way. There's something there that doesn't feel like it's a waste of time, that doesn't feel like, well, I'm not helping you. Leaning the hand feels important to me.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Absolutely. And what I think that particularly our generation is doing It was a term that was going around years ago that a lot of people had issues with and it's called decolonizing our mind. And what that means is just like, we just had to, we got to figure out how to think and move and live and outside of this Western subverted ass construct, this upside down world that we've inherited. and there's this thing where just what value is and currency and what this society has tricked us into believing is that like the green the usd or the euro is more valuable than like time you know what i'm saying and which is absolutely invaluable so um Which is why I understand the thought process of, you know, like the person saying, like, yeah, forget them kids. Like, whatever. That's not important. But it's like, yo, that is the most important thing. The most important thing that you can do. So even taking that, even going back to your original question, And really, since 2020, you know, that was the time that we were all at home. I was, like, really thinking about this of, like, what's valuable and even, like, the time to yourself, getting to know your body, your mind. Like, what does that look like? And it's actually really fucking frightening. It was really frightening for me. So I've been… I'm cool with time, you know what I'm saying? And even, like, the uncomfortable aspects of it, so…

Rob Lee: Yeah, it's, um, you know, that, that you talk about 2020, that's a, I think that's a, you know, you, you, you go through something. It's like, I need to tag this particular thing right here. And that is, that is sort of when this podcast took off. People were home and people wanted to share their stories and it wasn't me. being advantageous sort of thing of I have a captive audience, it was more so people want to connect. And I even add to one of the things you were touching on, at least from my perspective, I think, you know, we're in a spot, you know, our generation will have, I guess, is in this spot where We're we remember when the Internet and social media, all of this stuff popped off to the degree in which it's a part of your everyday life. We can speak that language and also be there. It's like, oh, especially from, I guess, an educational perspective of like. Hey, it's not going to be bad. You can figure things out. We've gone through it. You know, like I remember 9-11. I remember how everything was terrifying. I remember the D.C. sniper. I remember all of these different things. I remember the crash and student loans and all of this different stuff. Because I find like. And I encounter it talking with some artists, some guests, and so on, that there isn't that sort of gambate attitude. It's sort of this, woe is me, sort of thing, or even, well, this person is doing this, so I need to do the same thing to be successful, losing identity, and losing maybe the reason why you're doing something. you know, I rally against that so much because it hits this area. And I made the subtle jab, you know, the real JRE earlier, because as soon as that deal happens, every dude with a microphone thought they were Joe Rogan. And it's just like, do your own thing. You want to talk about thumbtacks? Talk about thumbtacks if that's what you're into.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: That's what we lost in this Internet age. And as we are, we're the new elders. You know, we're the new aunties and uncles. And I think that that insight is really important. And the thing about the Internet, it's like, how how real is it? You know, I always ask myself that, like this when I log off, none of that shit exists.

Rob Lee: Right. Right. Like you guys go disappear when I'm like logged out.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: It really is. So I have to ask myself often, like really question it. And I do this, go back and forth with deleting the app and then coming back, deleting it. And I noticed this in 2020. My youngest at the time was like three years old. And everybody was losing their damn mind. You had Trump and all of this stuff. And he didn't have no clue of what was going on. And when I say that baby was so happy and free, and i'm just like oh shit he's not plugged into this so i make it i try to be really intentional about unplugging um from that matrix and really tapping into my own which is i go into like the world building and stuff so yeah

Rob Lee: So this, this next question was not in there. Um, I, and I think it's a good one because it connects to what you were just touching on. I'm very, very curious. It connects to a degree to what you were just touching on. I'm very curious on like, I think creativity when it comes to like young folks, because they're unencumbered with these different feelings that we encounter as we get older of like criticism or, you know, ego or even critique or comparison. I think, you know, younger folks create to create. I've used this example multiple times when I was like five. I had like the huge glasses, like just me but smaller, right? And I was an emcee. I was on stage like doing masters of ceremony, right? And that notion is now is nearly 39. It's terrifying. So, you know, but I think then I didn't know any better. I was just like, yeah, whatever you say, you like me because I'm doing it cool. You know, and I think as adults, we have to find ways to tap back into it as we have people who incorporate play into their process or just make it a point to just, I'm just going to mess around. I'm just going to have a coloring book here. And just, you know, what do you think around, like, sort of, you know, creativity from when you're younger to as you, you know, get older?

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Right. That's. You see it in my work. You see when I tap into it, which was around 2019, 2020 area, where I just was giving myself permission to, like, dream. And one of the exercises that I go through daily is like, Where can I, how, how far can I stretch my imagination. So, when I say world building I'm literally thinking about world building because, like, I'm tired of earth, I'm not gonna lie and I'm just like somebody got to think about the new frontier. And this assignment that I've given myself is just like, well, what does that look like? And how comfortable can I envision myself like, you know, in these things that I've never experienced or in landscapes that I've never seen before? So it's actually a meditation. You know what I'm saying? And it's me meditating. And I'll give you an example of exercise, just like, well, what happened if I could fly? So let me kind of walk through that process in my mind. And I've been painting these dragons. what would I, let me go in my mind. And it's, it's, the question is what, you know, the mind, what is the mind, but that's a powerful shit because everything that exists came from the mind. It literally, we were pulling in and out of the ether into this realm. So somebody has to be a dreamer, right? Um, so that's the exercise that I've been doing and particularly going back to these dragons, because that's where I'm kind of like obsessed that I have like all these books. I've been reading 14th century, 13th century literature in relationship to dragons, because I'm like, no, it's something there. And I see the story of the dragon very allegorical to Black people, right? And it's definitely a connection there. But in order for me to understand that, I have to envision myself in that world. You know what I'm saying? And, you know, it's a lot because with social media and the world, you're so inundated by like images. And, you know, I'm still thinking about, you know, what's going to happen to Diddy and like, you know, I got to kind of I got to remove myself from that and allow myself to dream. So I think it's really important that we, not just with the children, but as adults, we have to cultivate the act of imagination, particularly with Black folks. You know, just think in terms of, like, Luke is created on Star Wars. Right then and there, young little white boys could see them. Everybody loved that movie, but I'm just saying, like, in terms of representation, they saw themselves outside of this planet. They were able to see automatically. You already know, and my question is, what does that exist for people who look like me? We know in these sci-fi films, these futuristic films, these epics, there's an absence of vigas. I'm gonna just be honest with you. And oftentimes, it's through a subservient, that slave lens. So, you know, in order, one of the things that I had to do was free myself up from being a slave and free myself up from being a victim. And that also included the imagination, right? Because as you know, if I'm able to imagine myself going outer space and, and to, you know, imagine myself with dragons. That's not, that's not a slave, you know? And if my ancestors, when I'm looking at this ancient art, these older arts, there was black folks on there too. Right. We never would select. So it's just like, eh, you know, it's some things there. So I think that our imagination was clipped at some point, especially with how we were educated here. Slave, slave, slave, victim, victim, victim, black man getting killed, black man getting killed. So I don't watch television. I don't watch anything really pertaining to pop culture, because I'm like, I can't fucking take trauma. And a lot of the shows that's, for instance, that's based on Detroit is like, you know, the Doughboys and stuff. You know what I'm saying? And I'm like, that's not like I have friends and family that was like murdered. And so I don't watch that. But you just think in terms of like the platform, not hating on 50 Cent, because I think it's room for all those things to exist. And I think it's important that they exist. But just think in terms of what has our cultural attention. Meanwhile, I'm watching. People globally extract, literally extract um our essence the the delectable negro like literally consuming us so my thing was while, like, my personal journey is, if I know that I'm up for consumption, right, and I understand the role that I play in the world and in the art world, it's really important for me to, like, get ahead and to create my own journeys, my own epics, my own adventures, versus letting y'all put me on, like, this love and hip-hop box, you know, not hating on it. That's real. But you also have to have these other things that exist as well. So, um, the imagination is everything. And, you know, it's really important for me to make sure that my legacy and my kids and, you know, people coming behind me like to see themselves. to see us in our nobility, to see us at our greatest. And I just wanna say this, one of the things that was really shocking and really jarred me in 2020 is everything was unfolding and I had this thought like, yo, this is us at our worst. I just imagine like I'm born and raised in a crack epidemic. It was rough, you know what I'm saying? Like just constant warfare, like living in a real live war zone. And I'm like, yo, this is us at our worst. Imagine us at our greatest. So for me to have, it's important that I can envision that. Somebody has to create that versus Hollywood, you know? Like they have their particular role and we can't complain about it. Like, oh, they only show us like this and they only show us that's their job. That's what they supposed to do. Who's going to create the new Disney? Yeah.

Rob Lee: Let me let me throw this one at you when it comes to pop culture. And I got a few questions after this. I definitely want to ask you before going to the rapid fire. So, you know, when we have those those films that come out, I watch a lot of movies and I do a lot of film reviews and things of that nature. I think about, you know, genres that don't get the respect, right, for what they do. And the ones that sort of, wow, we love seeing this new black creator here. It's like you're throwing us a bone in a genre that you don't really like. No, this is usually horror or comedy. It's never drama. It's never sort of epics and things of that nature, something that's almost fantastical. You know, we talk about, you know, Jordan Peele. He sits between both, you know, horror and comedy or even Nia DaCosta with the Candyman remake or what have you. Movies that I've seen, movies that I've talked about, movies I've had feelings on. And, you know, I'm almost looking for that real, like, Can we make this black with it feeling authentic? That's the question that I try to do. I do that sort of barometer. Like, I really get into the minutia of movies and I like the stuff that I like. I like stuff that is from a certain era. Like, look, put on Robocop, you know, old Detroit, let's do it. Absolutely. But at the same time, and this is the history of it, right? Movie came out I was two and I should not have seen it as early as I seen it. I was like, you know, why don't like none of the black guys in this? That was literally my thing as a kid, except for this one dude of Robocop to remind me of an uncle that never existed. When, you know, that drive and he peels off, he just it's a throwaway line. He's like, I'm about to beat somebody's ass. And I was like, that's a real black guy right there.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: That's all of our uncle.

Rob Lee: But when you get to sort of the, you like the, you know, the, the, the stern black archetype sort of police chief and things of that, but that's a, that's a, that's an archetype. Um, but there's no, the only person that was kind of a black person was probably the annoying person in the first movie that the, the bad laugh, you know, and they're all stage actors. You learn, you're like, Oh, you're classically trained and you're doing this for the role, for the heat.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Yeah, but I think that that's, you gotta just think about it in terms of like, and I will argue that's across all genres, that's across music, that's across fine art, that's across, you can go every, you can check it off everywhere. And I think, again, I don't think it's anything wrong with those things existing. They should exist because that's the role. And when we talk about propaganda, they have a job to do. but somebody is some, some of us have to unpack who the proverbial they are. Okay. It's not everybody's job or even mental capacity to unpack the, who the proverbial they are. And more importantly is what are we go do? It's just like, it's the, and that's when it's becoming more, you know, more solution-based than like, you doing this to us, you doing this to me, you doing this to, which is, again, I have, and I'm not, it's not to diminish any things because I have friends and family who dedicated their lives to activism and you gotta stay on they necks, okay? That's not necessarily part of my ministry. My ministry is part of like, I need to figure out while you on they neck, somebody got to build the new frontier. And a lot of that has to deal with imagination. And it's really important. And that imagination is going to reverberate in all genres, you know what I mean? Because one of the things that happens is folks be copying. And you know, that's just the nature of the information. You know, I see my influence on the art world. I see my influence on the culture. Just like I'm getting influenced by everyone and so forth. My thing is like, I need to just keep pushing us forward. So, yeah.

Rob Lee: That's it's a good point. That's a really that's a really good point, seeing sort of what that impact is. And I think that's why it's important to kind of be out there. And, you know, when I when I do this, I'm like, what do I have to really contribute? You know, that's the thing that they say or thing, right? And think about it. I was just like, I'm a black dude from East Baltimore that has this background. My perspective matters. And I would imagine other people have similar perspectives or want to know what that perspective is. It has some validity. It has a space and, you know, it connects and people rock with it. And the other thing that I learned in doing this is a lot of times this is the first time somebody was interviewed. A lot of times this is the first time somebody was actually asked about their work and not sort of what their identity stuff is. And, you know, it may be a part of the work, but it shouldn't be paramount and above the work if they're talking about the work.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: And it's about playing your part, like play your role. Everybody can be Jordan Peele. Everybody can be Beyonce. You know what I'm saying? Everybody can be Kehinde Wiley. No, and there's comfort in that. And that's the thing with coming of an age is like understanding the role that I play and not necessarily having a certain popularity or whatever, or this person got that. Like, no, I'm here. I influence the influencers. You know what I'm saying? I don't know if it's going to necessarily trickle down to the mass populace. But if I influence the influencers, that's something. Shit, you know, we know the rooms and the people that we conversing with, you know what I'm saying? And how our ideas. So that's why it's really important for me to make sure my imagination is just like out out there. And that means kind of being a conspiracy theorist, being a weirdo, being a freak, you know, whatever you want to call it. But it's like, no, I got to push it.

Rob Lee: So I say that thing like, look, I was all of that before it was cool. So let's let's keep it in the course. So let me go into this last bit here. I definitely want to talk a bit about ancient future. And so, you know, you've touched on some of the themes that I imagine are in there, you know, world building, mythology, cyclical time. So, you know, tell the fine folks, the listeners, you know, about sort of the exhibition, like describe it to the folks and what's the significance of the title?

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Absolutely. So I have an exhibition currently up at Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, which is in Miami. And it opened last October, but we had a really large reception during Art Basel. So I was titled Ancient Future one by a book that I have in my possession by an author named Wayne Chandler and who deals with a lot of ancient Egyptian, you know, mythos and cosmology. That's what that book is. But I like the name of that word. Excuse me. I like the title of that book. And I discovered that it's a lot of things called ancient future and even thinking about growing up back to the future is literally there's another iteration of ancient future, which really speaks to the, again, a cyclical nature of time. And what I mean by cyclical nature of time is like we go through these, these cycles, and even what we are in now. you know, which appears to be like a lot of just the world is just falling apart. Shit is just going wrong. But me as a person who's like the observer, I'm just like, yeah, no, we going through another cycle and we, we actually go be all right. So what I, one of the things about like me and my practice, like I'm, you know, I mentioned like I'm the weirdo, I'm the, because I feel that to some degree I'm a seer, like I could see into the future. You know what I'm saying? Things that I, of course, I knew this shit was going to happen. And even understanding, you know, by the time they picked this work up for my studio, that's when things like war, chaos, it was a lot of weird stuff going on. I'm like, oh yeah, this is perfect. The work is landing at a perfect time because I didn't want us to get lost in that and understanding that you know, some of the work has, it has the dragons in it. It has the largest piece called The Dark Knight of the Soul is this figure kind of thrusting outside of the firmament into the cosmos, surrounded by the goddess, the ancient goddess, Newt. And it's just that reminder of like, yeah, all this shit is happening in the world, but we good. And it's really important that we understand our place in the cosmos. And even when we've been going through shit since the beginning of time, y'all, it's been worse. I'm for real. Like our aunt said, just think of what our aunt, we going through this, we had the pandemic. I'm not saying it is traumatic, but when you begin like really reading the history, it's just like, ooh, shit, this is, We come, this is, we entered in a golden age because it was, it was rough. Okay. Um, so it's kind of that reminder because I also understand how black people are utilized in these times. Like they want to get us riled up. And it's just like, no, we have to think primordial. We have to think magical. Or this is what I'm proposing. And within this exhibition, I have these very fantastical mythological inspired pieces. But I also did a series of drawings that I just extracted, like things that were happening throughout the year. Because when we talk about ancient future, we're thinking in terms of ancient past, ancient future, but what about the now? And so one of the smaller drawings I did was one of Sha'Carri Richardson going across the finish line. And then I did a drawing of Simone Biles. And essentially what I was talking about was like, yo, isn't it interesting how the world is literally falling apart and niggas is getting faster? And that's all I'm gonna say right there. Just think about that. We jump in higher and this is through women. I don't really watch a lot of sports, but my husband be showing me stuff like, yo, look at this boy, like literally defying gravity. Like, whoa, wait a minute. So it's just like, it's to bring that context here because what's going, what's happening is you have the world is like, no, you need to be an activist. You need to put your neck on the line for the world to be, to move forward. And I'm like, this is my activism right here telling black folks, like, we got this. You just got to keep being great, being imaginative and staying. And we, you know what I'm saying? So we are heading somewhere and, um, I did these paintings, and I also created a film titled Ancient Future, where I commissioned these dancers from Atlanta who was choreographed by Janir Kiat and Byron Joseph, who I attended Jackson State with. So I also attended Jackson State at HBCU for undergrad, and I was in the band. And they choreographed this beautiful piece that I, and the music I commissioned my son to create the soundtrack for it. But in this film that I created was, I was literally evoking the spirit of the dragon. So you have these girls dancing in these capes. I mean, you know, some beautiful, badass choreography. And it's just like, no, we, And I really shifted to perspective like yo we are in the cosmos, and oftentimes we think our, we know we understand what perspective is we have floating rock in the middle of the cosmos. You don't think that we have anything to do with, like, all this. energy that's happening in the world, you know what I'm saying? And so I just, it was just a reminder, a very, not a subtle reminder, it was a big reminder of like, no, we kind of literally above this, and it's really important that we push forward. So yeah, I created this body of work that I'm very, very content with. And it's a stepping stone. And what's interesting is, it's like, since then, I'm calling it, I'm literally fucking upgraded. I'm looking at these new pieces I'm creating, and I'm like, damn, this is better than what I was just creating. So I'm steady looking, I'm looking ahead. And by me looking ahead is also me, if I'm like instigating this, like, yo, we some badass people. We are some magical folks. I have to be able to show that. I have to be able to demonstrate that in real time. So that's how I design my life is, you know, I'm going to be talking my talk. I'm going to be creating this work. And I'm literally like the mad scientist on myself, on my imagination. Like, let's push it. And not only imagination, it's skill. So yeah, that's the show.

Rob Lee: That's, that's great. And just, I mean, no, it's, you know, imagination is, has been the theme, you know, of this, this conversation, I feel. And, you know, I think, and before I go into this, this rapid fire portion, I, I think it's important because like, when you, you look at stuff from the past, again, going with the sort of cyclical nature of things, you get things from like the 70s, 60s, 70s, 80s, you know, even to a degree in the 90s. I think when, business starts to become part of things, it kind of stems that creativity. And we kind of rebranded. So like when I think of the 70s, I think like, yo, there was some futuristic, wild things happening. And then you had, oh, they were druggos. I don't care. I'm just saying they were stretching sort of the boundaries. And, you know, I used to play with this idea of, you know, you dabble in maybe, maybe, you know, different drugs, what have you, weed, LSD, whatever. And you're able to tap into something, into sort of all of your insecurities floating away, and you're just doing it. And it's like, use it as a, at least it's the thought I used to have, And I think it still applies, but use it as a entry point, as the key to unlock sort of your true you. And, you know, have something there to create with, you know, have like, you know, I used to get zooted and then edit podcasts or work on music and things of that nature. And, you know, it was just something into in it. And then you would wonder, at least I would wonder, like, how the hell did I do that? Oh, you're sober right now. You gotta, you gotta go back, G.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: You got to go back and you just think in terms of like, you know, we indigenous people and we're we're speaking from very contemporary times, but you got to think about it. This was like. way back when we, if me being an artist, I would be considered like a shaman-ish type of person. I'd be up taking my shroom teas and kind of like pontificating, like we do, we do it now. We're just not aware, we not, I mean, we aware, but we not aware of what's happening. And one of the things that I've observed was you see how each, throughout the time, you see how the drugs influenced the art of that time. particularly, you know, you could say fine art, but let's look at music. So just think in terms of George Clinton and him taking a psychedelics and then you had that goddamn crack era. Then you got the lean and now you got the mumble rap. Like, you know, it's very much, there is a parallel with the drug use, but one of the things that's fascinating because I'm in Detroit, which is legalized cannabis and they starting to legalize shrooms. um they began legalizing shrooms here and I'm just like that's actually a good thing because people are always we always want to look for drugs and you know just when you look at the ancient Egyptian temples they was taking coke and we they were smoking weed and doing coke like it ain't whatever that's the We all, we gotta, we, everybody on, we know we big pharma and all that shit. But anyway, so I'm like, oh yeah, we about to move back into that golden age as shrooms kind of began trickling down. And as I'm hearing getting back tapped into like the streets of what's going on in the culture is brothers and sisters are beginning to use that. But we know that, that, you know, the lean is, is, is, Oh my gosh, it's the new crack. It's the new crack epidemic. And look at the music. So I'm definitely like, let's fucking normalize it and let's make sure that we normalize using it for spiritual reasons. And we have to begin normalizing or defining what spirituality means to us outside of that colonized construct. So yeah, I'm with you, bro.

Rob Lee: That's real. So let me move into these rapid-fire questions. And this has been robust. So as I say to everybody, don't overthink these. We're on the same page. Get into it. Let's go. And it's kind of one of those things that, look, I said what I said. It's kind of that. Period. So here's the first one. Who do you admire?

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Who do I admire as of lately? Dang Dash. Okay. Dash, Master P. Those, that's those like, I respect them and I respect them for their sense of just being self-made men and independent, you know? So, right now, that's who I'm like, yeah. I have, I have those hoop dreams of like being a self-made individual and not necessarily out in the system, you know? Like, you know, just think of P, he created his own phone line. He got his own cereal, the wrap snacks. His ramen noodle, he created his own oodles and noodles. So there's a part of me that like desires that, absolutely. 100%.

Rob Lee: Aside aside from money. Right. I think money is a bit obvious. And I have relationships with money. And one of the things you were touching on earlier of sort of, you know, some of the advice that folks throw around and it's like, yeah, but you got a 10 exit. I was like, no, you know, communities universe is going to sort me out. And that's the way I've been riding this wave on from your perspective. Right. What are three things that artists need, you know, like excluding money? But what are three things that that artists need?

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Um, you need gumption. And what I mean by gumption, of course, is just courage, unapologetic. You got to have, you got to, you got to believe in yourself. That takes a lot of courage. You know, you know how many artists fucking exist. That's like saying you want to be a rapper, you know? Right. One, you got to have courage to, that's the first and foremost. Like, okay, I ain't scared. You can't be scared. It's like going into the haunted house. All right, you ready? All right, cool. The second thing is you have to have a tribe. you have to find your people because there's this kind of romanticized idea that the artist is the lonely kind of like, yeah, we are in our head a lot. We spend a lot of time by ourselves, but you have to have a tribe of folks who are going to challenge you. Iron sharpens iron. So that's first and foremost. Like, you gotta have a dope-ass tribe. And, um, lastly is authenticity. Is be yourself. I think oftentimes people be, again, trying to chase the Kehinde Wiley. And I'm not saying that I wasn't. Like, you know, that was the… He was the benchmark. And even, like, a Kerry James Marshall, and then you have Amy Sherrill, um… is that's their version of themselves. No one fingerprint is the same. And it's like, be your authentic self, tell your story, and you don't have to, like, you know, fit in and get in. I think one of the things that I learned, like, the more I can understand and tap into my truth, there's gonna be somebody out there that's gonna fucking relate to it, so.

Rob Lee: It's great. It's great. It's so, so important. And it's funny. I got to replace one of my rapid fire questions because you answered it in that piece. So good on you. What is your favorite color? At the moment, because I know you artist types.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Yeah, I know all the colors. I'm like really into this neon pink. OK, I am in this neon pink.

Rob Lee: I asked the illustrator last week who in her bio is like, pink is, of course, my favorite color. So I had to frame it differently. I was like, which shade of pink? And she was like, ballet slip of pink. I was like, all right, you thought about this. I appreciate you.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: But I'm going to tell you how cold it is, because like pink is the color of the interior. Pink is the color of the pussy. You know what I'm saying? The interior of it, like it's some fire ass color. And I don't think that we talk about like the depths of pink. It's like, Oh girl, pink. And you know, like from a very like basic, it's like, no getting, when you open up the body, the flesh, I'm sorry.

Rob Lee: This is why Cameron Ward now understand more.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Yes. Yes. As a fellow Aquarius. Oh, he's a fellow. Okay. So I'm a, I'm a cancer Virgo rising. Um, it's um yeah so it's it's pink and i've been actually i've been like mining like i'm trying to find new colors in my imagination like i'm literally trying to find new colors so

Rob Lee: I'm a mid-tone guy. It's always like ox blood or something like that. When I say the blood of my enemies, it's a running joke. Or it's like the olive joint, but it's just like I try to find something that's complimentary. And also it speaks to, I think, sort of my personality. Like I'm always gray. Somewhere at the midpoint is always where I'm at. And sometimes it could be a darker gray, but it's just like, look, there's room for exploration. And that's the way I look at it. So this is the last one. And I kind of before we got started, asked a little bit about about food or what have you. So I definitely want to ask you this is I'm curious, like I'm a guy, you know, I'm always snacking on pistachios. That is my go to snack. Do you have a go to snack? And if so, what is it?

null: Whoo.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Yo, I'm going through this pickle phase and when I mean by pickles, pickled okra. Really? Oh, God. We an okra household. My husband is really into okra. He did a whole dissertation on okra. Black people have a very unique history with okra, but pickled fucking okra, that's it. That's my go-to. That's it. I used to have a real bad, I'm calling it a cookie demon, man. I have serious addiction to sugar. Everybody does. I began thinking about that. I hate to go on a quick tangent, but just real quick, just think about in the 80s, going to school, it was just like, say no to drugs, right? Say no to drugs. But meantime, they're pumping sugar, sugar smacks, cookie crumbs. What's the damn Lucky Charms? And we know that sugar is some, that's the most addictive, that's what's taking us out. You got dialysis clinics on every other fucking corner. So I've been intentionally trying to fight my addiction to sugar and the pickles help.

Rob Lee: I mean, I do like a nice like chocolate chip walnut cookie. I can't stunt. But once you start seeing it, right, you know, like it can't it can't be unseen, you know. And I remember I was sitting there because you always hear like, yeah, you know, stay away from salt. Black guy diseases. Really, it's the sugar that causes a lot of these different things. You look at it and it's like, all right, I'm eating these chips. You look at the nutrition facts and all of this because they don't teach nutrition in school. You look at it and you're like, all right, these are chips, so you should be worried about the fat and the salt because they're fried. Then you see there's actually sugar in these too. It's like, oh, you snuck this in. I don't even notice it.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: It ain't nothing like a good cookie, man. That's my, yeah, if I could, I'll indulge, but you know, I'm trying to be healthy, so.

Rob Lee: So, you know, that's pretty much it with the real questions, the rapid fire questions. So, one, I want to thank you so much for coming on to this podcast. This has been a joy and a treat. And two, I want to invite and encourage you to share with the listeners where they can check you out, follow you, you know, the exhibit, everything. The floor is yours.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Yeah, absolutely. Find me on really the social media, Instagram and Facebook. That's where you can find me. And if you, you know, I've, I'm not new to this. I've been around for a minute, you know, it's, people will get shamed for this or I've been shamed, but it's like, yo, Google me, Google me, you know. I've been, I've done like several interviews and it's good to see, you know, just the evolution of, you know, my thought process and my practice. And so, um, yeah, that's where you can follow me, you know, DM me. I'm pretty like open, you know, I'll say what's up back. So, yeah.

Rob Lee: Well, what up though, you know? And there you have it, folks. I want to again thank Jamia Richmond-Edwards for coming on to the podcast and just really get into this deep conversation with me. And I'm Rob Lee saying that there's art, culture and community in and around your neck of the woods. You've just got to look for it.

Creators and Guests

Rob Lee
Rob Lee
The Truth In This Art is an interview series featuring artists, entrepreneurs and tastemakers in & around Baltimore.