Jae Jarrell - Going to NYC, 1994 (detail)

Jae Jarrell / Elaine Annette Johnson

July 30, 2013

Born Elaine Annette Johnson, Jae Jarrell is an American artist and fashion designer, as well as one of the founders of AfriCOBRA movement, the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists, alongside Jeff Donaldson, Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, and Gerald Williams.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she was inspired by the legacy of her grandfather as a child, whose work as a tailor led her to develop knowledge of clothing fabrics, fibers, and weaves. She also taught herself how to make her own clothing. She attended Bowling Green State University before moving to Chicago to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During the 1960s, she married a fellow artist Wadsworth Jarrell.

AfriCOBRA was founded in 1968, when a group of artists came together in Jarrell's studio to discuss the premise that black visual arts have innate and intrinsic creative components characteristic of their ethnic group. As an artist adept at fashion design, she created groundbreaking wearable artworks that incorporated strong patterns, textures and colors of Black Family, Unity and Manhood. Both interpreting and expanding on the ideas of the group, she developed abstract, idiosyncratic methods of translating black positivity into fashion objects.

Featured image: Jae Jarrell - Going to NYC, 1994 (detail). Mixed media on canvas. 53 × 74 in. 134.6 × 188 cm. This is a unique work. Photo courtesy Kavi Gupta Gallery