Jessica Clermont – a senior at the University of Florida pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Art – talks with us about ceramics and digital art, what inspires her, and how her black identity and expression has influenced her work.
Meet Jessica – A Ceramicist and Digital Artist
Jessica is originally from South Florida, the second child of her parents who immigrated to the US from Haiti in their early 20s.
She described them as “supportive parents of artist children,” as she and her older brother are both pursuing careers as full time creatives. Seeing her brother explore different mediums of creative expression inspired her at an early age.
By the time high school rolled around, she found herself taking art more seriously. Her schedule included classes exploring techniques and art history. At first, the threat of a bad grade and the desire to be great was overwhelming, but as time passed, the stress transformed to catharsis and she found herself developing her own style and meaning.
As an observer, I was easily able to trace the line of her style through all of the different mediums she creates with – from 2D to 3D, analog to digital, color to black and white.
“I just happened to get a job in a ceramics lab, and suddenly my eyes were opened.”
Fast forward to the present day, and Jessica is in her final semester of her Bachelors degree in Art focusing on Ceramics and Graphic Design with a Japanese Minor.
When I asked her about her focus, I was surprised to hear that her introduction to ceramics was serendipitous.
“I just happened to get a job in a ceramics lab, and suddenly my eyes were opened,” she told me excitedly – the passion in her voice was palpable. The tactile nature of the medium coupled with the utilitarian qualities of the pieces were different from anything she had experienced before.
While she loves having her art hanging on a wall for people to interact with visually, the direct experience of using a hand thrown piece ignites something within her. Moving forward, she has lots of ideas in sculpture that she is excited to explore.
“Sometimes I can be controlling in terms of my art, but now it’s not only me who gets to decide what happens to this piece.”
The medium comes with its own hurdles, though. “Things have literally blown up in my face,” she tells me with a laugh. “There’s a depression phase after losing a piece to the kiln, but it’s a moment to learn and backtrack. It’s annoying and it’s a pain, don’t get me wrong, but it humbles you.” She’s learned to find beauty in the unknowing. “Sometimes I can be controlling in terms of my art, but now it’s not only me who gets to decide what happens to this piece.”
I was fascinated by the juxtaposition of the unpredictability of ceramics and the high level of control afforded by graphic design, her other focus. While ceramics are ruled by gravity and the elements, you can do anything on just one platform through digital art.
I asked for what inspires her. “Daily life, color schemes from throughout my day, things that I read, and my own life experiences.” She finds that she gets the best ideas when she’s falling asleep, or trying to. “I usually keep a journal on my nightstand, and I find myself writing passionate, intimate, and personal things – that’s when I find the most inspiration, specifically for a new series of work that I want to create for my senior show.” Currently, she is working on her final project that illustrates her journey throughout the University of Florida, diving into moments of her life that have shaped her into the artist she is today.
Studying at a PWI (predominantly white institution) means she is often the only black person in her class, specifically the only black woman. “I find myself working even harder to prove my worth. It is not like anyone is asking for me to do that, but I feel like I have to.” She has always found a way to include black identity and black expression in her work, and is now moving into exploring “communication, connection, and discovery,” along with mental awareness.
I was in awe of the ways that her development as a person is reflected in her work, and am looking forward to these pieces that she is creating.