Wayson R. Jones is an artist based in the D.C. metro area. Involved in the Black, queer spoken word and performing arts scene early in his career, Jones has been active in D.C. arts and culture for decades. We Built This House features work from two of Jones’ series: Black President and The Pyramids at Giza.
Reflecting on his work, Jones writes that “as someone who grew up on '50s and '60s TV and movies, the stark contrast and tension between deep black and blinding white—and the myriad gradations between—are a lasting source of inspiration in my work.” Those gradations and contrasts are well conveyed through the artist’s use of powdered graphite alongside black and white paint in the Black President series. Comprised of abstract portraits of Barack Obama on canvases, these works use abstraction as a means and an end, illustrating to viewers the complexity, darkness, and glory inherited by the first biracial president.
In his Pyramids at Giza series, Jones uses texture as a container for blackness. With this series, the artist challenges notions that the pyramids were built by aliens rather than Egyptians; while that narrative may seem silly, it serves to deny Black cultural heritage and creative ability. Jones’ diamond-shaped sculptural paintings play within this idea. On wood panels, Jones uses uncanny and extraterrestrial textures and patterns–darkness is their container though they are affected by the light. Jones’ work within the exhibition reminds us that Black creativity has shaped our world from its beginnings, and will shape our future as well.
- Cole Clark (VCU Sculpture + Extended Media, BFA 2021)
Wayson R. Jones is a painter, musician, and spoken-word artist. He received a degree in music from University of Maryland and later went on to perform with renowned poet Essex Hemphill as part of Washington DC’s burgeoning Black gay and lesbian arts scene of the 1980s and ‘90s. The two performed in venues including dc space, Blues Alley, The Kennedy Center, The Painted Bride (Philadelphia), LACE (Los Angeles), and LaMama Theater (NYC), and appeared in works by filmmaker Isaac Julien (Looking for Langston) and videographer Marlon Riggs (Tongues Untied, Black Is/Black Ain’t). His visual art is informed by these experiences and by an exuberant approach to materiality and process. He has had solo shows at BlackRock Center for the Arts, Arts/Harmony Hall, Northern Virginia Community College, DCAC, and Prince George's County Publick Playhouse. Wayson received a 2017 Individual Artist Fellowship from the Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council. His work has been purchased by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Maryland/National Capitol Park and Planning Commission, MGM National Harbor, and The Hotel at the University of Maryland, and is in private collections in the DC area and nationally.