How Photographer Jamie Robertson Maps Her African-American Roots in Rural Texas

Jamie Robertson. Artist of the Day

Jamie Robertson focuses on the Black landscape of a rural Texas county, and the union of her great-grandparents. Photographs of family homes embedded in nature, a full moon rising over the trees on a country road, and her grandmother watching television with a landscape painting behind her, invite viewers into her personal world. Her goal is to create meaningful and intimate work that resonates with a diverse audience while sharing the history of her family and the land.

Not Real Art Artist Of The Day Series

Robertson pairs photos from her family archive with images of the property her ancestors have owned for generations. Her book, Charting the Afriscape of Leon County, Texas, was published in 2020 by Fifth Wheel Press. Her work in photography and video traces her African-American roots in East Texas, and explores concepts of ‘place, time, and the sacred in the African Diaspora.’

Robertson has an MFA in Photography and Digital Media from the University of Houston, along with a Masters degree in Art Therapy. She co-hosts the podcast, Where I See Me, which examines the presence of Black and Brown people in comics and the media, and teaches narrative photography, video art, and performance at Sam Houston State University.

I studied Art Therapy at the Florida State University (FSU); a program with a social justice focus. My education at FSU prepared me to work in community arts education as an Outreach Coordinator, Teaching Artist, and now an Adjunct Professor. All of these roles allow me to develop art programs for underserved communities as well as mentor the next generation of young artists. I believe that art should be accessible to everyone regardless of their status in society. It is highly important to me that the work I create has multiple entry points for understanding. In doing so, I ensure that a curator from a large art institution and my grandmother, a Black woman from rural East Texas, can both develop an intimate relationship with my work.

As a woman artist of color in Texas, Robertson has often felt unwanted by the conventional art world, and restricted by her geographic location. With galleries concentrated on the East and West Coasts, it has been challenging to be taken seriously, despite the fact that she lives in one of the largest cities in the U.S. As Robertson navigates the hurdles to expanding her range of viewers, she has found ‘building a strong community network of like-minded artists’ essential to her creative practice.

Table of Contents

Jamie Robertson — Artist Statement

Jamie Robertson. Headshot
Jamie Robertson

Charting the Afriscape of Leon County, Texas is an autobiographical examination of my family history through documentary photography and the family archive. The‘Home Place,’ the land my family has owned for generations, is the site of my creative practice. This landscape filled with its own folklore such as stories of an axe that becomes a lightning rod, Bibles opened to Psalms 91 in every room and people transforming into snakes; inform my photographic eye. The mental images they conjure are the foundations of my work and the beginning of my understanding of the African retentions present within my family.

Time is folded as past and present intersect through my pairing of photographs from my family archive with my own documentation of the Home Place. This intersection of time is greatly influenced by Bântu-Kôngo expressions of the universe through the ideogram Dikenga dia Kongo; a symbol and philosophy of life cycles. Through the use of this living and active cosmology of the ancestors, Charting the Afriscape of Leon County, Texas mediates on the Home Place as a Black landscape in rural Texas; centering around the union of my maternal great-grandparents. The enduring memory of my ancestors serves as the beginning of a personal formation of ancestral concepts of place, time, and the sacred.

Grant Submission Work

Jamie Robertson. Big Daddy's House in Hopewell, TX, 2019
Big Daddy's House in Hopewell, TX, 2019
From the series Charting the Afriscape of Leon County, Texas
Inkjet print
24 x 36 inches
Jamie Robertson. Big Mama's House in Egypt Community, Centerville, TX, 2017
Big Mama's House in Egypt Community, Centerville, TX, 2017
From the series Charting the Afriscape of Leon County, Texas
Inkjet Print
24 x 36 inches
Jamie Robertson. Grandma, 2020
Grandma, 2020
From the series Charting the Afriscape of Leon County, Texas
Inkjet print
18 x 24 inches
Jamie Robertson. Domino Game, 2019
Domino Game, 2019
From the series Charting the Afriscape of Leon County, Texas
Inkjet print
18 x 24 inches
Jamie Robertson. View of the Sturgeon Full Moon from CR 122, 2020
View of the Sturgeon Full Moon from CR 122, 2020
From the series Charting the Afriscape of Leon County, Texas
Inkjet print
24 x 36 inches

Jamie Robertson – Artist Bio

Jamie Robertson is a visual artist and educator from Houston, Texas. She earned a BA in Art and an MFA in Studio Art with a concentration in photography and digital media from the University of Houston. She also holds an MS in Art Therapy from Florida StateUniversity. She is a former recipient of the American Art Therapy Association ‘PearlieRoberson Award’ and Red Bull Arts Microgrant. Robertson is also one half of the podcast, Where I See Me, which examines the presence of Black and Brown people in comics and media.

Her creative practice is an autobiographical examination of history and identity in theAfrican Diaspora through the mediums of photography and video. Her work was featured in Where We Are at Art League Houston and Through the Lens: Identity, Representation & Self-Presentation at Florida A & M University Foster-Tanner Fine ArtsGallery. Her photo book, Charting the Afriscape of Leon County, TX was published in December 2020 with Fifth Wheel Press. She currently works as Lecturer at Sam Houston State University.

Jamie on the Web And Social Media

Here is where to find out more about Jamie Robertson on the web and social media:

About the Artist of the Day Series

All artworks have been published with permission of the artist. Our "Artist of the Day" series is a regular feature highlighting artworks from the 100's of grant applications we receive. The "Not Real Art Grant" is an annual award designed to empower the careers of contemporary artists, and this is one way we honor all entries we receive. Find out more about the grant program here.


Tags

African diaspora, africanamericanartists, autobiography, cultural identity, family, heritage, landscape photography, night photography, personal history, photography, portraits, Southwest, Texas, video


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