Decades ago, singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone cited a crucial time in America, when every day was a matter of survival, as a reason for artists to be involved.
“An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times,” Simone said.
Marketing junior Assandre Jean-Baptiste is doing just that.
With paintings like “Stop Killing Us,” Jean-Baptiste sends a message to law enforcement, a command to end police brutality and unjust killings.
“If anything, the issues allow to me to add elements that may relate more to the audience that are affected by said issues,” Jean-Baptiste said.
In the last year, Jean-Baptiste’s work has been seen and shared by thousands on social media.
While some people buy his art just to put it on their wall, Jean-Baptiste said he hopes the concepts behind most of his paintings are what sparks ideas.
“That’s what keeps me going,” he said. “No matter how you view it, people respect artistry. If they’re able to understand what you mean by it and what you’re trying to say, that’s the only thing that keeps me going.”
What makes Jean-Baptiste’s success even more surprising to some of his closest friends is that they didn’t even know Jean-Baptiste was an artist until last fall.
“When people found out he had talent like that, it threw everybody off,” public relations senior Bobby Williams said.
Williams and Jean-Baptiste met in 2015 at a meeting for an organization on campus called “A Collection of Brothers.” Williams and business management senior Khari Miller encouraged Jean-Baptiste to use social media as a platform to showcase his work.
“I didn’t want to use social media,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Because I’ve seen how easy it is to get caught up. It’s distracting.”
While Jean-Baptiste was hesitant, Miller insisted his talent needed to be displayed.
Miller said Jean-Baptiste is almost too humble at times.
“He needs to be in front of a camera, but that’s not his style,” he said. “It’s just a natural thing.”
Jean-Baptiste said he just wants to use whatever medium he can to get his ideas out. The point, to him, is to get enough exposure to relay the messages he wants to convey.
“It’s through my art that I can say what I want without having too much trouble finding the words,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I’ve always believed that wittiness through art is amazing in itself. To create thought-provoking pieces is and has always been my goal.”
Jean-Baptiste almost made a decision to never share his work. He thought about quitting multiple times when he compared his work to more popular artists but realized it would take focus and drive to make success a possibility.
He carries a sketch book with him at all times and said the slightest thing could spark his imagination, and he will jot something down.
“You can’t force creativity,” he said. “Most of the times it just comes to me.”
The serious nature of some of Jean-Baptiste’s work forces him to try harder to convey his message, especially when the issues affect him directly.
“Whenever I see something, I immediately think, ‘How can I paint this picture,’” Jean-Baptiste said. “I know I have an idea, and it looks good, but if something’s missing, I’ll work on it and make the slightest changes to it that other people might not even notice until I’m comfortable with it.”
Miller said the world is a better place with Jean-Baptiste’s art in it.
“His imaging gives prospective in maybe a way you didn’t really see,” he said. “As he grows more confident, he’s going to be an even bigger star.”