Jason Wright, Artist – Image Courtesy of Jason Wright
You normally don’t here the terms extreme sports and art in the same sentence, so I was quite intrigued when I heard about Jason Wright’s show called Take You Home – on display at Gallery Plan B. You see, Wright lives the dual-lifestyle of professional skydiver (check out the video below) and knife painter, effortlessly swooping in-and-out of each role, and drawing inspiration from these experiences in order to bring something fresh to the art scene. In this interview, Wright talks with WLDC about his work, his passion for life, and what it is like to live in D.C. every summer.
We Love DC: How did you get to be where you are today? Artist and professional athlete isn’t the most common title to have.
Jason Wright: I grew up in Hawaii, and Hawaii is still home for me. While living there I was completely immersed in that culture, skateboarding and surfing all the time. It was at this point that art fused with me and I began illustrating for skateboards. In that kind of art culture you also get to experience things like music (I was in multiple bands) and even the culinary arts (I wanted to be a chef at one point), the art world is very friendly and was a perfect fit for my free spirited type of personality. I always followed my own path in life and let my passion lead the way. Next, I ventured into snowboarding and because of injury it was taken away from me, but all of the traveling I got to do at the professional level was good for inspiration – meeting different people and attending different galleries.
I had some hardships in my life. My family was broken. My mom was everything for my brother and I after my father left. In 1994, my brother died while living in the D.C.-area trying to reconnect with my father, so upon his death, I came out here to try and do the same thing. At this point I fell in love here and I gave up all my careers out West, living the dream life I wanted. When you fall in love for the first time you are willing to do that – a good experience and a good life lesson. This period of my life also gave me a bunch of inspiration for my art. While living in D.C. for most of the year I kind of felt like a black sheep, so painting full-time became very satisfying, almost like my therapy. I also have a real passion for the individual, free spirited sports that make me who I am, so at this time I started skydiving. It was my second life calling. It fulfilled my life, and I feel really centered now. I am more focused and happy, which has lead me to where I am today.
The Rebel, Oil on Panel, 30″ x 30″. Jason Wright.
WLDC: What is Take You Home?
JW: I paint these really simple modern homes. I wanted to explore the idea of shelter, the idea of home, and what it means to different people. Every time people look at my art – or a house -, everyone’s reactions are totally different. Some people will see hope, love and security, and some people will see fear, pain and desire. I wanted to do a body of work on that whole notion and philosophy, forcing people to look at their own hopes and fears. I look at the basic house as just a basic shape and I also think about it as one of the most recognized forms in the world. The notion of home is kind of imprinted on us in our childhood and remains that way for our entire life. I just wanted to recreate this and bring the associated emotions out of people. In its simplistic shape, no trees and lights, all you get is a house. The art is very monochromatic too.
There is this poem that first gave me the idea for the art I am doing.
“ I had a dream last night.
I dreamt of all these houses
In a far away land.
And all that was left was shelter.
From the stars up above.
From the past we once knew.
From the heart that it gave to you. “
WLDC: How do your experiences inspire your work?
JW: Because of all the traveling I have done, I have always been drawn to the nostalgic things – like I am a huge fan of old books. I am more drawn to the old small house in a field then some modern architecture. Skydiving and surfing is also very inspiring. You have to live in the moment since they are dangerous; you have to accept your fate. Before you skydive you are only given a few minutes to center yourself, you just have to be at peace with everything. Part of this is why I do the work I do. I want my work to be ethereal and haunted, not really eerie, but more dream-like. Writers and poetry also inspire me.
What We All Come To Need, Oil on Panel, 8″ x 8″. Jason Wright.
WLDC: What about D.C. excites you?
JW: I would say that D.C. is a hard place for artists. My biggest complaint is that I don’t feel like the city supports art. Yeah, they support The Kennedy Center, but they don’t really support the arts; but, they are slowly starting too. Any other major city knows that they need to depend on the art culture to draw more people in and make it more distinct. D.C. is starting to get on board with that, but it is still hard to be an artist here. However, D.C. is definitely my favorite city on the East Coast. I think it is the most beautiful city and also has fantastic architecture. The best part about D.C. is definitely the people who live here, the people here are awesome. The city gets a bad reputation for being all about what you do for a living, but that is changing. I really think that DC is going to be one of the hippest cities in the world in not too long.
WLDC: Where do you go in the District to find creativity?
JW: I am a big music person so I see a lot of shows. I like to go to venues on H-street, and of course, the 9:30 Club. I go see exhibits a lot, but I am not stuck in museums all the time though. I like to attend different openings to see what other people are doing and to support the community. I love interacting with all the different people in DC. I enjoy having coffee at Mid City Café and riding my bike through Rock Creek Park – feeling the city basically.
WLDC: What are you working on now? Do you have any new projects?
JW: I have a show in Scottsdale this winter so I am currently painting for that. I also have a gig with Red Bull where I will do a couple of installations in their US office, located in California. I am doing 15 x 15 knife paintings which is huge for a knife painter. It will be really cool to have a permanent work in their collection. I also have the skydiving world championship in 2 months, and my goal is to be a world champion within two years of joining the sport.
WLDC: Do you have any advice for an aspiring artist?
JW: I would say just keep trying. It is definitely one of the hardest careers in the world to have, but at the same time, it is the most rewarding. Don’t give up and go for it.