Interview with artist Jamar Lockhart
INTERVIEW BY ASHLEY K. PARKS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JUSTIN MILHOUSE
Art enthusiast Jamar Lockhart was born and raised in Detroit and found his passion for art very early in life. Having watched his father, an artist, he was able to witness first hand the drive, detail, and dedication needed to produce fine pieces of work. As an artist, but as a man and human being first, Jamar reveals some of the intimacies in the mind of an artist and a responsibility to righteousness. More than just in the work we do, but the life one leads is what creates an influential person. Jamar holds this same principle as his guiding force. A lover of the truth revealed in documentaries and biographies, he too has a story to tell. “My documentary would be a collection of experiences that make up my life. They would be real, flawed, vulnerable, and interesting. I would call it, I am…” says Jamar.
PARKVIEW: Where did your origins in art begin?
Jamar Lockhart: My earliest recollection of doing art would go back to elementary school. I was always interested in art but I had a second or third grade teacher who really encouraged me as an artist. She introduced me to local contests and things to get involved in as she fostered my interest to be more consistent with it. I had another teacher in middle school who would excuse me from class assignments so that I could do artwork. I was able to paint a picture that my dad drew of my sister and me for the school, and they hung it up on the wall. My dad was also an artist so I was lucky to watch him draw pictures of people that he liked including Otis Redding, James Brown, and The Supremes. As for me, I started out heavily sketching cartoons and my talent evolved from there. I was heavy into wrestling as a child. I would draw muscle wrestlers but they would have sharp angles as body parts with a triangle for a head and a rectangle for a body. My earliest drawing that I’ve kept is a drawing of Shaft that I entered in a middle school competition. I may have won maybe second place. I thought it was pretty good (laughs). I remember growing up and being surrounded by students who weren’t really interested in art but for me, art class was more than just class.
PARKVIEW: How do you define art?
Jamar Lockhart: Art is life. Everything we do here on earth is art to me. The way we dress is art. The way we express ourselves is artistic. The way we speak or the words we choose are art. The music we listen to, it’s all art. There are just many different forms and styles that exist in a creative kind of way. I’ve always been a fan of documentaries, which is visual art. Real authentic stories are told through documentaries, and the interviews are in depth. They are the truth. They speak to the rise and fall of a person and everything in between, filling in the blanks that people don’t always see.
I don’t think there is good or bad art. It’s all just a matter of expression. For example, although something may have a racist tone to it, I can’t define the art as racist. What is being portrayed may be, but not necessarily the work.
PARKVIEW: Do you think you have a responsibility to contribute to the climate of racism through your artwork?
Jamar Lockhart: Absolutely. More than through my artwork, but as a man first. I have a responsibility to live righteously. I don’t only have a social responsibility but a moral obligation to put positivity into the atmosphere. I think it is up to all people to portray a different way of life because there is so much negativity out there that it can be difficult to combat. It’s therefore essential that we live with integrity, high standards, a moral compass, and with a certain creed about ourselves. I didn’t grow up in a church centered home but I was definitely brought up to appreciate faith. I had and still have strong examples of people who exhibit those principles. My mom and dad would do things out of the kindness of their heart. No gift was too big for them. Everyone is presented with choices and it’s up to that person to decide how to face them, particularly when it comes to racism. We have a choice to hurt or heal with the things we say and do and how we treat each other.
PARKVIEW: What other artists influence you?
Jamar Lockhart: People like Jacob Lawrence and his portrayal of African American life during the Harlem Renaissance, Basquiat and his depiction of social struggles, Keith Haring, and Picasso have contributed to my overall interest in art. Alvin Ailey dancers at a performance inspired me once. The colors, the background details, the body fluidity are all artistic. Although I am not a dancer, the art is influential. People who were innovators are all a big influence on me personally, and many other artists unnamed. There are people out there now who are trying to recreate some of their works, which is a testimony to the influence they had on art culture as a whole. It isn’t so much of their personal lives that make me appreciate their artwork or their talent any more or less. When I look at their paintings or any of their work, it gives me depth into who they were as human beings and how they used their art to express themselves. The art reveals the truth of their lives to me.
PARKVIEW: What do you want people to see when they view your artwork?
Jamar Lockhart: I want them to see me. My personality. My characteristics. My style. I want them to see my vision and pieces of my life. I want them to see some of the things that I have gone through and experienced culturally and how all of those things make me who I am as an artist. You can tell a lot about an artist through their work, particularly their use of color and lines. For me, you will see clean lines, bright colors, and shades. I really enjoy abstract work because the message is left to the viewer’s interpretation. I also want people to see talent in my work. I would be lying if I didn’t say I want people to see that I actually have skill. I shy away sometimes from putting too much of what I like into commissioned work because I am not always certain that other people will be receptive to my style of art. It can be a bit of an insecurity, but also a challenge and motivation for me to master another body of work.
PARKVIEW: How are you different now from childhood?
Jamar Lockhart: From a youngster to an adult, there are definitely pieces of me that remain. I’ve had to grow up quickly due to things that happened to me and have shaped me into the man I am. My parents passed when I was in high school. I remember the Saturday before it happened. My mom got a new car, and we went to practice driving because I was starting driver’s training. I must not have been paying attention to some safety measures or something because I remember her telling me about her first accident. Ironically, that night or early the next morning, both of my parents passed in a car accident. I remember having this funny feeling inside the whole night and when my grandfather, we call him Fair Daddy, told me what happened, everything in me dropped. He said, “We don’t question God,” and I never did. But for the most part, I feel like that young boy still remains in me. I would describe that person as shy, introverted, and reserved. Naturally, I don’t always feel comfortable around people I don’t know but I am more at ease as I grow to know someone. I don’t know where that comes from, but it’s just the way I am.
PARKVIEW: What would you tell your younger self now about life?
Jamar Lockhart: I would tell my younger self that life is not promised. We all have an expiration date that we don’t know of. Live life with no regrets and to your fullest capabilities. Don’t be afraid to take chances. Some part of me wishes that I were more trusting and open with people on an intimate level. I have been blessed with some amazing friends who I have maintained close relationships decades later.
I was guarded as a child but I could have been more trusting of the process of getting to know someone and making sure they are deserving of my time and effort. To my younger self, I would say don’t be so quick to settle. Live a little. Fair Daddy tells me he’s experienced “two lives in one lifetime,” from the things he has experienced. He has infused a wealth of knowledge in my life and gives me a lot of jewels like, “A man is only as good as his word,” “Education is the hippest game in town,” and “You are lucky to have one true friend in life.” He has been my biggest influence and I would share those same pearls with my younger self.
I think everything happens for a reason. I am not one of those people who questions or second-guesses life. I find solace in the fact that things are supposed to happen as they do. The person I am today is, in part, a great deal because of the people I have surrounded myself with and because of the people who have helped and allowed me to grow into a man. Without those people being such key parts of my life, I may not have ever developed from that 10-year-old boy. When I paint, I paint to make myself happy. My work reflects my happiness. So to any younger or older person, whoever you are, wherever you are in life, I say do what makes you happy. I am.