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By Kylie de Jesus, Curatorial Intern

As Autumn Gary and Alexis Javier prepare for their upcoming #art912 exhibition Of One Mind, I sat down with both artists to discuss their journeys as individuals, creatives, and humans. In my interview with Alexis (Aje), he shared his background, artistic process, personal philosophies, and delved deeper into his work created for the exhibition. Of One Mind will be on view in the Lewis Gallery and Sculpture Terraces from July 19, 2024, through February 9, 2025!

The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Kylie de Jesus (KDJ)
Do you want to start out by telling me a little bit about your background? Where did you grow up and how did you end up here in Savannah?

Alexis Javier (AJ)
Yeah, sure. I was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1982 during the spring of my parents’ senior year of high school. I was their first born and they were very young, so although they both had full rides to go to college immediately after they graduated, my dad decided, for security purposes, to enlist in the Navy. We spent our time moving from Connecticut, to Pensacola, Japan, Virginia, back to Pensacola, and then Hawaii. I find this time to be important as it was my formative years, you know, that time in one’s development where you are like a sponge soaking everything in… Eventually my father was able to leave the Navy post-Gulf War and I was about 12 when we moved back to Connecticut to be closer to both sides of my parents’ families.

I came to Savannah right after high school to go to SCAD for a B.F.A. in painting, but a couple of things happened, and I ended up dropping out of painting and going into fashion design instead. While I was still studying painting, I was illustrating for a girlfriend at the time and her friends for their fashion illustration class and I found myself really enjoying it. I like drawing the human figure and I like drawing very quickly, gesturally, and loosely. Those kinds of techniques are used in fashion illustration, so that’s a part of what got me into it. The second reason is that I decided I did not need a degree to be a painter. I felt like I could keep painting, keep developing my style and keep putting myself out there. Doing that should be able to take me to wherever it might lead me.

In that time, I merged those two mediums and started painting on clothes. I got involved in organizing fashion shows and being part of them too. I partnered with other people and businesses in the community, got the radio stations involved, and held all the shows at a club or a lounge or somewhere downtown. Through that, I was meeting and connecting with a bunch of locals that way and that got my name out there even more.

During my senior year at SCAD, I was one of many students who became a little jaded by the “fashion world,” so after graduation in 2006, I was just like “I’m done.” I ended up taking close to a four-year break from creating, but I decided to stay and work in Savannah. I had a decent job making decent money, benefits and all that. I just got swept into working, living, going out, partying, hanging out, and just enjoying life, but not pursuing much creatively. I did keep a sketchbook and would draw from time to time, but that was about it. In 2010 my job let me go for some personal reasons. Looking back though, I’m grateful for the person who made the ultimate decision. She brought me in, she told me that this was not what I should be doing, and that I had more to offer–that I should be pursuing my creative endeavors. What she told me really instilled the fuel and the fire in me to get back into drawing and painting, but I haven’t done anything with fashion since.

At that point, I had been doing all these one-line drawings in my sketchbook, inspired by the continuous line technique, and those evolved into something much bigger. I had my first solo show in 2010 or ’11, at Local 11ten. I sold all but one piece. After that, I think about a year or so later, I followed up with another solo show at the Sentient Bean. That went really well, I started working at The Bean, and that’s where I met Jennifer Moss. I knew Emily Earl already, but we had lost touch over the years. The three of us kind of got to know each other through that job and that is where our relationship evolved into Sulfur Studios. By the end of 2014, we started making plans to open Sulfur and we legally opened our doors in February 2015 with our first renter. I think that from there on, the story is a bit more current.

KDJ
You mentioned that you started your art back up with the single-line method. Can you elaborate on the continuous line technique and how you use it in your art?

AJ
It’s a basic drawing technique that teachers use with students to practice their hand-eye coordination. It’s very detached from any kind of traditional rendered drawing and it doesn’t have to be realistic. It’s a matter of getting the essence of the subject matter quickly, in a flowing state, without thinking too much about what the result will be. I usually use the continuous line technique as the starting point for some of my work.

A couple years into working with this technique, I came into this “knowing,” or meaning within my linework and started calling it “lineage.” It’s a play on words with “line” and “Aje” (my nickname). When I put the pen down, that initial marked point becomes the metaphor for entering this world, so once the pen starts moving along the page it creates the subject’s life. There are moments where I might pause and stop, and you could see how the ink blots, representing a moment of uncertainty, of “Where do I go?” There are also certain parts of the line where it’s a little jagged. To me it represents that phase in life when you’re anxious, showing a sense of uncertainty. But then there are these beautiful, smooth, flowing lines when you’re on the “right path,” a sense of confidence, and you’re living the life you’re supposed to be living. It’s a metaphor for one’s life journey. I’ll sign out with “Alexis Javier” and that’s the end. I sign out, my death, the “death” of this journey.

Then the other part is that I was creating these little heads, these faces, out of one continuous line that would roll into another face, that would roll into another face, to the point where I would fill the entire page with faces. I just thought of them as ancestors. Like these are the versions of other people that came before us, again, referencing one’s “lineage.”

Alexis Javier, Relatable (JMB), 2012, marker, ink, and charcoal on wood panel, 24” x 36” inches

KDJ
So, one of the themes in your upcoming exhibition Of One Mind is the idea of “oneness.” I’ve talked to Autumn about it, but from your perspective, would you be able to talk a little bit about oneness and what it means to you?

To read interview with Of One Mind artist Autumn Gary, click here.

AJ
It’s the idea that all of life goes back to the home source. Even what I mentioned earlier about lineage, in our very short-lived experience in this realm and in these bodies, some of us are fortunate enough to meet our great grandparents. Some of us may only know our parents and even then, some of us don’t. There’s this lineage within the creation of life and I do believe that we are connected to all life.

There is a certain level of symbiotic living that exists in the natural world. There’s a lot of overlapping elements within all of life, and it all breaks down to chemistry, physics, and some cosmic, primordial, universal laws that we just haven’t learned, or better yet, don’t remember.

I’ve always felt connected to life in general. To other people, to animals, to bugs, trees, whatever, and I think that we’re reflections of one another. We can find a little bit of ourselves in someone else if we’re willing to deeply look, deeply listen, and get in touch with that deeper connection in our human story. Things have really strayed away from this way of thinking, how we see the world, our identities, alignments, and how we interact with each other. Instead of connection, now it seems like it’s all about comparison. Our religions and our alignments to man-made ideas cause more division than bring us together.

Aje’s studio photographed by Anne-Solène Bayan

KDJ
You mentioned your connection to science, specifically chemistry and physics, and it seems like you follow somewhat of a scientific approach to the way you view the idea of oneness. It’s interesting because during my conversation with Autumn, she talked a lot about her spirituality. You both view oneness differently but are coming together to build this exhibition and allowing your ideas to coexist. I think this speaks directly to what you were saying about how we should use our differences to unite us. It’s a very powerful message.

AJ
There’s definitely overlap. We’re in a time now where there’s been more exploration around the connections between spirituality and the science behind how things work. It’s fascinating because the study of sound has opened up a new conversation around the construction of the buildings used for prayer and spiritual experiences. Whether you’re going into a synagogue, a temple, a church, a mosque, if you look at these structures all around the world, especially the “old world,” there are similarities in the designs, the shapes, and the sacred geometry within a lot of these structures. Now more scientists are speculating that their original designs were used as centers for sound. It’s partially why I think the acoustics in many of these places are pretty amazing.

The sound frequencies can penetrate our skin. Our skin is an organ that absorbs energy we can’t see, it physiologically responds to sound through energetic vibration. I could see why anyone who understands this would use these buildings or spaces to spread a message, because the acoustic design of the structures allow for a more direct reception.

KDJ
So, how do you think this plays into your work? Do you use sound frequency and science as a part of your process?

AJ
Well, when it comes to the sculptures specific to this show, they act as receivers. I’m not using sound frequency directly, but I am referencing those ideas in the works. Autumn’s pieces represent the grounded, tangible, subject matter – humans, organisms, animals, all sentient life – and the pieces I’m making hang right above hers. They are the receptors, the antenna, the interfacing between Autumn’s pieces and “Source,” “Spirit,” aka “God.” Some of them whisp and wind around in linear formations, resembling musical notes and the continuous line technique. They move, spiral, and wind around because that’s how frequency or waves move.

Aje’s studio photographed by Anne-Solène Bayan

One of my pieces, Hearts In Vortices, hangs directly over Autumn’s piece, Heart Awakening, which was a beautiful coincidence in the titles. I called my piece Heart Vortices through learning more recently about the science behind the heart. The heart acts like a valve. It’s a tissue that is rolled onto itself like a vortex. It’s this vibrating mechanism in the body, the metronome to our lived experience. Depending what you’re doing, it slows down and it gets faster based on whatever you’re experiencing in the moment. We all have our own frequency and we all put ours out there. I think that’s why sometimes we connect with certain people; we could be vibrating on the same wave. It’s funny too because we use this same vocabulary in our vernacular. We’ll say things like “You feel me?” or “Yeah, I’m vibing with you” or “I vibe with that,” but on a deeper level, I don’t think we’re as consciously aware of how true that is physiologically in our bodies. Energetic vibrations exist in us and all around us from the macro to the micro.

KDJ
It’s fascinating to hear you speak about the science behind human connection and vibration. Going back to what you were saying at first, your work and Autumn’s work have this connection and dialogue between the upper cosmic realm and the grounded earthly land, which really speaks to the idea of oneness within the show and in your work. But also, with Autumn’s background in community outreach and your very integral presence in Savannah’s arts community, how do you think you and Autumn translate this theme of oneness from inside the gallery space to outside into the greater community?

AJ
I think for me, it’s the way I move through different pockets of the community and how I show up for other people. I always have my eyes and ears open to what else is going on, and I try to be out as much as possible to see what other people are doing. I find ways to make connections and help others connect as well. It’s gratifying to connect people with one another and to see something manifest or grow out of it. The way I do show up, like an “interface” or “receptor,” I think, is something that comes across, not only in the creation of the works for this exhibition, but in many of my creative projects. Collaboration is often present in what I do.

KDJ
So, what are your goals for the show? What do you want visitors to walk away with after seeing and experiencing Of One Mind?


Aje in the studio photographed by Anne-Solène Bayan

AJ
This may sound cliché or cheesy, but I want people to know that they are a drop of water in the ocean. We are all connected to something greater–to one another and to all of life–and that we will all return home in whatever capacity that means for the individual. I think that there was a soul contract that we all signed before we came here. You know, we all came here for a reason. Whether it’s positive or negative, I don’t think that really matters to me anymore. You can’t have one without the other. We are human and we’re always in this state of duality. Some of us are here for all the positivity and light, and some of us are here to mess stuff up. I think that it’s all part of nature’s way of maintaining balance.

When people visit the exhibition, I really hope that they will slow down. I think we’re living so fast right now that we’re caught up in all these things happening outside of ourselves. I hope that people take the opportunity to think about themselves and where they came from, because if we know where we came from, then we have a better idea of how to live. We can become creators of what we want.

For more of Aje’s work, check out @savaje18 on social media!

Related to this Article

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exhibition

#art912 Of One Mind

Jepson Center
Of One Mind is a collaboration between local artists Autumn Gary and Alexis Javier around the theme of “oneness," an approach outlined in the Ohèn:ton Karihwatéhkwen, or the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address. In this invocation, participants express gratitude for life-sustaining forces and elements, effectively recognizing humans' inseparable bond to the natural and spiritual worlds.
exhibition

#art912 Of One Mind

Jepson Center
Of One Mind is a collaboration between local artists Autumn Gary and Alexis Javier around the theme of “oneness," an approach outlined in the Ohèn:ton Karihwatéhkwen, or the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address. In this invocation, participants express gratitude for life-sustaining forces and elements, effectively recognizing humans' inseparable bond to the natural and spiritual worlds.
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