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Breaking Free: Inside Jazz Brown's Artistic Journey To Radical Authenticity

Breaking Free: Inside Jazz Brown's Artistic Journey To Radical Authenticity

Jazz Brown broke free from a prison of his own making — a gilded cage of expectations.
Visual artist Jazz Brown in J. Rinehart Gallery, Seattle, WA (photo by Meggan Joy)

The world is filled with expectations for creatives: paint every day and get gallery representation; paint whenever you want and stay indie; price your work high and make a ton of money; keep your artwork affordable and embrace the starving artist ethos; only use oils or only acrylics; be a traditionalist or become a modernist — and the list goes on. The expectations are endless, but they are also a caged trap that can imprison an artist. And it’s a prison that Seattle-based visual artist Jazz Brown knows all too well.  

Brown has always been an artist, at heart. As a kid growing up in Savannah, Georgia, he doodled and painted things like dinosaurs and Transformers (a popular action figure and cartoon in the 1980s); but by the time he was a young adult he put aside his artistic activities. Somehow, he got the idea, from the adults in his life, that drawing and art was “child’s play,” something that should never get in the way of embracing adult responsibilities.

“I don't think they meant it to be soul crushing,” Brown said. “But just ultimately, just the reality of the art world, you know, wasn't a way to feasibly pay bills.”

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