Jason Fleurant aka JaFleu, Powerful Strokes of a Haitian American Artist
Courtesy of JaFleu
HAY Online Media Q & A with JaFleu Haitian American Artist
HAY Online: Who is JaFleu? Tell us a little about yourself in as few as five to six sentences?
JaFleu: JaFleu is a self-taught Haitian American Artist. Nothing more, nothing less really. I'm just someone who takes the world as I perceive it and puts all on to a canvas.
HAY Online: What were your passions growing up?
JaFleu: I kept to myself for the most part. I was really passionate about much. I read books here and there, played basketball with the people I grew up with. But there wasn't anything I was really drawn to growing up. I found myself searching for something but never really finding it. I kinda was just someone who existed but wasn't unique. Except for the rare occasions that I'd find myself doodling. I didn't really like art as a child, and I wasn't really fond of the attention I get when I would draw. People would always be over my shoulder or asking if I could do this or that. I would only do it as a release, granted at the time I really didn't realize that.
HAY Online: When did painting first come into your life?
JaFleu: I didn't start painting until the earthquakes in Haiti happen in 2010. A long story short, I was moved by what I saw to draw it all. It became kind of therapeutic, it spiraled into this thing where I could express everything I couldn't before. Once Yanatha Desouvre suggested I start painting on canvas, everything changed. The moment my brush touched the canvas I became addicted to painting.
HAY Online: Who would you deem your biggest mentor of all time?
JaFleu: Life would be. There is no single person I can say has really mentored me in a fashion better than or more effectively than life. Life is the ultimate teacher, source of inspiration and more. There have been people here and there that have loosely played roles as I grew up, but ultimately it all boils down to living life and paying attention to the lessons it teaches.
HAY Online: What compelled you to decide and go about art the way you have?
JaFleu: Simple, having no choice. Once the ball got rolling I quickly realized if my work was going to matter at all then I would have to create or put myself out there as much as I can. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, I think that's how the saying goes. You learn, in the end if you have a dream no one is really trying to help you achieve it. People come and go, some use you some want you to give them all the good but none of the bad, so you have to get to a point where you're just constantly doing for self till it makes an impact.
HAY Online: How do you get down? What are some things you like to do in your spare time, if any, with all you do?
JaFleu: This is the part I usually like to keep to myself. Can’t let everyone into your private world. Let's just say I live. I'm not much for parties or crowds anymore so I more or less just keep to myself nowadays. You can usually (if the weather permits) find me off by some body of water or somewhere alone listening to music in my own time. Other than that, I'm soaking up what's going on in the world, because that is what inspires my art.
HAY Online: How has painting along with the arts shaped your world today?
JaFleu: I don't know what my world would be like without it to be honest. Black males aren't even supposed to make it to 25 statically speaking, and while at 30 from the outside looking in it looks much better than what it is. Painting has changed things. People who I've never met or even would imagine knowing who I am do, and are inspired by things I paint. I've gotten to use art to help people, and make differences. Art made me, for good or bad who I am today. I literally haven't the foggiest of idea what it would be like had I not pursued it. 99 percent of the people I know and am close to is only because of it, had I never gotten into art I may have never met some of my greatest friends. And that would be the real shame. Like art hasn't made me financially successful or famous, what it has done is it helps silence all the chaos in my head and gives me an outlet to speak without using words.
HAY Online: What is an obstacle you overcame? How was it resolved? We want the “Meat and Potatoes” too, please elaborate for a youth who can learn from it.
JaFleu: Honestly, most of those “obstacles” are too personal and I'm still in the midst of dealing with them. I'm gonna be completely honest, I haven't overcome... I'm still in the trenches and everyday question whether what I'm doing is worth it. Yes I've seen little success here and there but at the end of the day I'm still very much in the just trying to break ground phase. Only thing I can say, is art helped me deal with the death of my father. I was able to just bury myself in my work, but then again maybe that's not the best thing.
HAY Online: What do you want to be your lasting legacy? What is it that you most want people to remember you by?
JaFleu: You know that feeling you get when you hear your favorite song? Something like that. I want my work to be a legacy of art that matters. Jason Fleurant, JaFleu... he doesn't matter. He's just a man amongst countless many. But what does matter is what I did while I was here on this pale blue dot we call Earth. I want my art to speak for me, I want it to be something that means so much it's taught about in universities. I want to have been known as someone who mattered, to borrow a little something from Kendrick Lamar, “... when the lights shut off and it's my turn to settle down my main concern…promise that you will sing about me.”
HAY Online: What would you tell a young Zoepreneur, Haitian American Entrepreneur, who is trying to do what you are?
JaFleu: Easy, don't do what I do. Even I don't know what I'm doing. What I'd tell them is do you. Be who you believe you were put on this planet to be. Life is so short, too short to not live out your dreams or at least try. Other people will try to shoot you down, derail you, others will uplift you and so forth. But the one constant is you, and if you can look in the mirror and feel good about what you are trying to do then that is all that matters. Be you!