Photo by Imani Khayyam
(Artist and Mississippi College adjunct professor Jasmine Cole sees comic conventions as something that the art community can rally behind.)
3rd story in multi-feature article*
By Micah Smith
Comics & Contemporary Art
Jackson artist Jasmine Cole will miss out on Mississippi Comic Con this year due to a family reunion, but her watercolor paintings, many of which feature cult-classic characters such as Samurai Jack and Marceline the Vampire Queen from "Adventure Time," will be there in fine form.
This won't be the first time that Cole has catered to the comic con crowd. She also held an artist booth at SOPOCU Con. She immediately noticed a natural camaraderie in the crowd. Attendees had a mutual respect for each other's crafts, whether they were artists, collectors or cosplayers. Outside these events, Jackson offers relatively few places to meet people with similar interests.
"Sometimes, you can meet someone at a supermarket, and they'll have, like, a '(My Neighbor) Totoro' t-shirt or something, but mostly it's at comic shops and just art events, even," Cole says. "... It's nice to be around people who appreciate the same things that you appreciate, and you can kind of share it. There's this vague sense of community when you can be around other people that share a passion that you have."
It's a community that Jasmine's father, Ron Cole, introduced her to when he used to collect comics. His hobby gave her plenty of material to read as a child. Around that time, she also started watching anime—animated shows from Japan. Cole's interests merged and inspired her to absorb anything to do with art.
She continued pursuing her passion for art while attending the University of Mississippi. She changed majors a number of times, though she continued taking courses that synced with her creative side. At the suggestion of her mother, Lora Cole, Jasmine decided to study subjects outside of art, as well, and in 2009, she earned two bachelor's degrees: one in studio art and another in print journalism. Then, she began her graduate studies at Mississippi College in Clinton, receiving her master's degree in visual arts in 2010 and a master of fine arts degree in 2013. She now teaches art appreciation classes at Mississippi College.
Given her education in traditional art, some might not pin Cole as the convention-going type, but she admires all forms of art, each with its own history and reasoning. She's also quick to point out the merit of comic-book-style art as a mode of creative expression. Ask her to name a few of her favorite artists, and the long list will include famed painters such as Jacob Lawrence and Jackson Pollock, alongside Fiona Staple, the illustrator behind the science-fiction and fantasy comic "Saga."
Like some Renaissance, pop art and even abstract paintings, comics are "rooted in a sense of storytelling," she says. But if comics don't speak to a person, that's OK.
"You can't really worry too much about whether one type of art works for everyone because everyone has a different perspective on any type of art, whether it's realism or pop art or comic-book art," she says. "If (it) speaks to someone, you've done something good."
While some stigmas suggest that comic-con culture is centered on things meant for children, Cole says more and more people are accepting those interests as art forms, thanks in part to the success of movies and TV shows based on anime, comic-book and graphic-novel properties.
"That idea of it not being mainstream, I don't think that's as strong as it used to be. I think people are really embracing it, you know," Cole says. "... I think (comic culture) is definitely ingrained, and it's been around for so long. Especially now, with so many studios and companies making money off of it, it's everywhere."
For Cole, the next step toward the success of events like the new Mississippi Comic Con would be to reintroduce the art community—museums, dealers and creators—to comics as a unique voice in contemporary art.
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