GIPHY Arts commissions hundreds of artists a year, all of whom do impeccable work. Today, we are happy to spotlight GIPHY Artist Jessica Ashman and share a Q&A that dives deeper into the creative process.
Jessica Ashman is a multidisciplinary artist working in animation, moving image, music, performance, and installation. Her work focuses on creating experimental animation and sound-based narratives that explore gender, identity, and race.
What came to mind when GIPHY Arts approached you for a commission?
As an artist, I’ve had various ideas of dealing with the concept of Blackness across the diaspora, dipping into ideas about the age when you start to integrate your connection with your race, especially as a mixed-race Black woman. I’ve had this character in my head for years: a young woman dealing with societal expectations of race and gender with the metaphor of a wearable black shroud, who ends up arriving at a place of acceptance and celebration of their own connection to their Blackness.
So, the GIPHY Arts commission was a great way to ‘test the waters’ (literally in the film!) of this idea. As a musician, I thought this commission would also be a great opportunity to mess around with a really eerie, dreamy sound but also at the same time, knowing exactly what the visuals were doing, as I was creating both alongside each other. I was heavily inspired by the band TV On The Radio and the grizzly sound of their track ‘Staring At The Sun’ for the music for The Onyx Shroud.
What is different about GIFs/Clips vs. other art mediums?
I think the great thing about GIFs/Clips is the freedom they allow for infinite narrative possibilities. You can experiment with ideas and just play around with not too much planning. Planning is obviously very important in animation, but I think it’s healthy to push into the improvisational nature of GIFs. I also think GIFs and especially Clips have a power in creating momentary slices of narrative which are more memorable, especially when combined with sound. There is magic in something which is so fleeting.
What do you hope your audience takes away from your work?
I blatantly make work that caters to Black women’s experiences, so I hope that the young Black women, non-binary and trans people who see my work, really connect with the transformative experience the character goes through in The Onyx Shroud. Which I suppose is somewhat of a universal concept for all, the power of finding a place to belong…
Describe yourself with one GIF/Clip
This is hard! Probably this one: