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21Ninety Artist Residency: Laci Jordan

by Elle McKenzie

Photo: Erik Petty

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Black people know "For Us, By Us" reigns far greater than just simple words — it's our battle cry. We are in the midst of an exciting, modern-day Black renaissance where our stories are being cemented into American history by way of our voices. The role of art, specifically Black art, has the immense power to heal, mobilize, and provide more stamina as we, as a community, continue to push forward. Such is a mantra that artist and creative director, Laci Jordan, dutifully stands by. Inspired to create content due to the lack of visibility of Black creatives, Jordan considers herself a renaissance woman when creating captivating art rarely seen in hallowed white spaces. 

Throughout this month of April, we partnered with Jordan to produce exclusive digital wallpaper for you to download straight to your digital devices. I had the pleasure to speak with Jordan on what inspires her to create alluring content for the Black community, how she defines Black, female empowerment, and what we can expect to see from her in 2019.

  1. Check out our exclusive interview with Laci Jordan below.

21N: What is your earliest memory of knowing you were meant to be an artist?

Laci Jordan: This is such a funny question for me because I never thought I was creative until late in my college education. My mom can tell you that I cried to her as of child about my lack of creativity, but I didn’t realize that I was creative in a different way than how I saw her and others in my family. I played in a Black marching band for the majority of my childhood, loved to doodle, and was obsessed with anything Lisa Frank and colorful — but still, never really saw myself as an artist or creative. 

I came into my creativity during an elective I took in college while studying Criminal Justice. From there, after graduating with my first Bachelors, I returned for another in Design and the rest is history in the making. 

Artwork: Laci Jordan

21N: In much of your artwork, you strive to convey the beauty of Black women’s existence through the use of bold and captivating colors. Can you describe how you developed this style, and why it’s important to represent the Black community in a positive light?

LJ: I started to develop my illustration style while working at Disney Imagineering about six years ago. Surrounded around a ton of great artists, I saw a bunch of different styles and gravitated towards a flat vector style of illustrations. I started by drawing things I resonate with, such as sneakers, music lyrics, graphics, etc. 

Color has always been something I’ve been drawn to, even before becoming an artist. Color also represents so much, it can do anything from brighten a mood to bring back a memory — it's infectious and unforgettable. I want to create things that stop you in your tracks visually, and colors tend to do that. 

Creating art that represents Black women came very naturally to me — I create the things I want to see, and the things I don’t see enough of in the art world. It’s important to show Black people in a positive, authentic light because as we know, the rest of the world tends to show and treat Black people very poorly. We’re always in need of positive representation.

Artwork: Laci Jordan

21N: How do you define Black, female empowerment?

LJ: Simple — Black women supporting and lifting one another. This goes further than just career sector but women supporting mentally, physically, and spiritually.

21N: Your professional resume includes collaborations with The New York Times, Planned Parenthood, and Foot Locker — just to name a few. Who are some illustrators, creative directors, etc. who move you artistically? And if you could manifest one dream job, who or what brand would it be with?

LJ: This is an unfair loaded question . There are so many people who are inspiring me in various sectors. At the moment, I’m really into the work of photographer Renell Medrano, I love how she captures POC. I’m still obsessed with Solange's new album and visuals for obvious reasons. I also love the work that comes from Willo Perron and his studio. 

The dream job part is extremely hard because it’s so much stuff I want to do, so I have two. I would love to work with a musician and be able to create in different mediums from merchandise to stage design. The second is to have my own sneaker with Jordan Brand. 

Artwork: Laci Jordan

21N: Throughout the course of history, art has been known as a tangible medium — one that can be seen and felt while you stand in its presence. Yet as an illustrator, graphic designer, photographer and web designer living in the digital media era, your artistry expands beyond the barriers of a simple canvas. What inspires you to make the leap to these different mediums? 

LJ: Curiosity. I’ve always been very curious and observant and someone that never wanted to be put in one box. I’ve learned that being a jack of all trades is possible, but you definitely need a foundation in one spot and be able to grow out different mediums from there. My career started in graphics, then moved on to illustration, photography, etc. 

I recently looked at a bunch of work I did in college for friends. I was the person who shot my friends' photos for their fashion blogs or the person who produced a sorority mixtape. Looking back at that, I realized that I’ve always worked across different mediums and done versions of the work I do now — I just didn’t acknowledge it or take myself too seriously.

Photo: Jasmine Durhal / Creative Direction: Laci Jordan  

21N: What has been the most rewarding aspect — as an entrepreneur and artist — since starting your brand?

LJ: My artistry has played a huge role in shaping into the woman I am today. If you would’ve told me back in 2011-2012 that I would be in the position I’m in today, I probably would’ve laughed at you. I’m happy to be someone that is considered an inspiration to people around the world. Living in my true purpose and being in a position to inspire is the most rewarding part of my career. 

21N: Are you currently working on any projects at the moment? What can we expect to see from you in 2019?

LJ: Yes! Lots of things! I’m working on a podcast for Black creatives called Shit to Say, as well as, building out my building out merchandise such as prints and apparel. I have a few fun projects coming down the pipeline, unfortunately, due to contracts I can’t speak on them yet, but I’ll say that one collaboration coming out shortly is with an infamous Black magazine! I’ll also be making my debut into the online teaching circuit soon. 

Artwork: Laci Jordan

21N: Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for Black women striving to break into the art world?

LJ: Whew, how much time do you have?

Here are my top keys:

– Don’t be afraid to put your work out there, if you don’t put your work out who will know you exist?

– Don’t be afraid to shoot your shot. Reach out to potential clients, pitch projects, try to find a mentor. You don’t always have to wait on that person to fall into your life. Reach out.

– Be resourceful and use your network. A lot of people feel the need to reach out to big name people in order to gain certain opportunities, but most of the time you already have the resources and the people around you. 

– No excuses! These days people can shoot a documentary on an iPhone, anything is possible.

– Give yourself grace. The life of an artist can be very taxing, give yourself that space to create but also space to rest. Don’t spend time comparing yourself to other artists because that other artist isn’t YOU. 


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