The art of Youveline Joseph is invariably vibrant, incorporating elements of her Haitian heritage alongside her love of makeup and fashion. Born in Haiti, but raised in Brockton, MA, Joseph has been creating art for as long as she can remember, though her affinity for portraits emerged more recently. Struck by the lack of representation for people of color in the art world, Joseph has since centered her practice on depicting and celebrating Afrocentric culture in all its diversity. Through the last few years, she has continued to evolve her technique, making use of cowrie shells, beads, and real hair to add captivating texture and luster to her work.
Joseph’s collaboration with Jamaal Eversley titled Miss Louisiana will be shown in Beacon Gallery’s R.E.A.L. F.R.I.E.N.D.S. exhibition running from September 4th to November 1st. The show features Eversley’s joint work with ten friends and fellow artists, reinforcing the belief that a successful collaborative process strengthens communal bonds and generates dynamic creativity. Ahead of the show, we talked with Youveline Joseph about her creative practice, inspirations, and work with Eversley.
What was your path to becoming an artist? How did you develop your artistic style, and what drew you towards a more figurative, portrait-oriented practice?
As for my path to becoming an artist, I feel as though that started when I was really young. As young as 5 years old I was always sketching on whatever I could find. I was always naturally good at drawing. In high school I took advance level art classes and in college I minored in Fine Arts. However, I think I began to fully develop my art/artist identity in 2018 a year after graduating from Suffolk university. While on the journey of self-discovery I began to develop my Afrocentric artistic style. Being a Sociology major I had a habit of looking at people’s relations to one another and how we function within society. I created an Instagram and decided to revisit painting more and focus on an artistic style. It was then that I discovered my love for portrait art. I realized that there was not a lot of representation or positive representation of Black/ people of color. I remember how much I wish I saw people who looked like me while growing up and how essential it is to be seen. How it is not enough to just exist, but it is important for us to be recognized, uplifted, and praised for what makes us who we are. With that I continued to explore ways to infuse Afrocentric culture, hairstyles, features and just about anything into my artwork.
What inspires your work, and how do you land on your subject matter? How does your Haitian background and other elements of your identity influence your work? Do you have any particular routines while artmaking?
I’m mostly inspired by culture, music, fashion, and beauty. While in college I worked in retail and loved styling outfits and also enjoyed doing makeup. I really believe my artwork showcases all those elements. I love textures, gems, bright colors so I try to transfer those interests into my artwork to make for more interesting portraits. My Haitian background greatly influences my artwork especially when it comes to my color choices and combinations. Classical Haitian art usually contains a lot of color as well as planets and references to nature. I like to use palm tree leaves, flowers, and birds to give off a tropical feel to some of my artwork, as it directly connects to my Haitian heritage. When I work I usually work in silence, however depending on the day sometimes I watch movies while painting or I listen to music. Most of the time I just paint and chat with my siblings.
This is more to satisfy my own curiosity, but I noticed that you paint a lot of butterflies. What draws you to that motif, and does it hold any particular meaning?
What draws me butterflies is their beauty. I love what they represent. I think they symbolize rebirth. Becoming the person you were met to be. It also symbolizes my growth as a person and an artist. How everything in life is a journey, a process, that results in something beautiful.
How did you first connect with Jamaal, and how have you collaborated since? What work(s) are you thinking to contribute to Beacon’s show, and how do they incorporate themes of friendship?
I met Jamaal while looking for a gallery to do a solo exhibition. His work was up in the gallery and we chatted about art and how we are both Haitian. Jamaal also helped me wire and hang my pieces. He was super helpful and gave me a lot of pointers, this was maybe a year and a half ago. We’ve been in touch since then. This will be my first collaborative piece with Jamaal. The piece I’ve submitted to the show is titled Miss Louisiana. The collaboration piece of me in Jamaal combines both our love. I created a figure to go with Jamaal’s theme while still including my love for butterflies, makeup, beauty within the piece.
What projects are you working on right now, and what would you like to accomplish in the near (or distant) future?
I am currently working on a series of natural hair/ protective styles. I have been really trying to think outside of the box. Thinking of new ways to incorporate real hair into by artwork. While also adding other 3D elements such as beads, cowrie shells, gold leaf, resin, and glitter to these pieces. In the future I would like to have a studio space, grow my social media presence, and have another solo exhibition.
Any art, book, movie, recipe, media, etc. recommendations, or just anything you’ve been particularly enjoying recently?
I’ve been enjoying watching a lot of Netflix. Money Heist is my latest obsession.
To keep up with Youveline Joseph and her work, find her @youvelinescreations on Instagram and Facebook and on her website, youvelinescreations.com.