Durham, NC – Durham-based artist Jarome LaChesson set his easel up at the Spectacular Magazine Business After Hours featuring live jazz at the Millennium Hotel on Feb. 9 and proceeded to paint. LaChesson may be spotted anywhere from live jazz shows to Sunday morning sanctuaries, creating works of art live, as he channels the music that surrounds him.
Watching his works come to life, one can appreciate the depth of color, flow of movement and naturally inspired forms that blossom onto his canvas. His journey from the small 5,000 person town of Ahoskie, North Carolina, through the Coast Guard and finally onto the pursuit of his grand artistic visions, is one of passion, faith and inspiration.
A crown symbol holds a place on each of his paintings. His artist’s signature, this emblem signifies LaChesson’s unwavering commitment to giving glory to God, the inspiration he draws from the renowned Basquiat, as well as his own confidence in his creative potential.
“I didn’t want to be called an artist,” LaChesson said, explaining that when he started out, he felt the label did not fully reflect the full scope of his ambition, creativity and passion. LaChesson’s endeavors go far beyond acrylic and canvas, encompassing theater, dance, graffiti, poetry, and comedy extending even further towards science and philosophy.
“I want to build rockets. I want to know ‘what are we?’, I think about Newton’s Laws,” he explained. LaChesson has even filmed an autobiographical short, which was recently shot in Washington D.C. and is currently in production.
While he has since come to understand and accept the label of “artist” his journey to the fulfilling the role has been far from linear. Still, faith has always been a central part of his experience and current creative expression.
As a child, his parents instilled faith as part of his daily life. “Thank God when you wake up, and pray when you go to bed,” LaChesson was taught. Yet it was not until his days as an adolescent, always experiencing grace throughout his teenage misadventures, that he felt his personal relationship with God deepen.
Between his time growing up in Elm Grove Missionary Baptist Church just outside of Ahoskie, and his current weekly painting sessions during services at Life International Church in Durham, LaChesson spent time with the U.S. Coast Guard. Inspired by an older cousin who served in the same branch, LaChesson passed the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test on his first try, despite doubts and a lack of support he felt from those directly around him.
After serving for over a year, a talk with his supervisor caused LaChesson to reconsider a lifetime career with the military. Realizing that the military could not provide him with everything he wanted out of life, LaChesson decided to transition out in 2014 and boldly chart a course towards new endeavors.
In a notebook titled “Dreams + Ideas”, LaChesson laid out his new life pl
“‘I am’ is the two most powerful words ever,” he said. During this time in his life, he had to boldly construct his own identity. (pictured left: LaChesson painting and samples of his artwork)
“No one can define you but you… [I] have the courage to be the real me,” declared LaChesson, adding that embracing whatever consequences or hard times that came along and telling his family that he wanted to be an artist were crucial steps in the process.
LaChesson graduated from North Carolina Central University in 2016 with a degree in mass communications, although he also completed 2 years of an art major. During his time at NCCU, ideas about Blackness developed in ways that now influence his artistic practice. Growing up, LaChesson was teased for being “white” due to his love of books, however during his time in college, his exposure to smart, successful Black people changed his outlook and motivated him to excel.
“I’ve seen cotton, I’ve felt it,” LaChesson said, explaining that his house used to be across the street from a cotton field. In his town of Ahoskie, plantation houses and slave cabins still exist.
Once an African professor told him, “draw better, draw every day, draw what you see,” igniting a change in perspective for the artist that caused him to question mainstream media narratives, look closely into nature, and share what he learns with his own community.
LaChesson spoke directly about wanting to uplift Black women, as they are the very people who have supported his creative journey. To this end, LaChesson offers body painting sessions for women to help them build confidence and see themselves as beautiful.
Inspired by God’s design, LaChesson appreciates and celebrates the human form as well as intricate designs found in nature. The fibonacci sequence found in seashells and spiderwebs features heavily in his work.
At this point in his journey, LaChesson stated that there is one thing he primarily aims to share through his art: “Love, it’s infectious.”
Jarome LaChesson creating live art inspired by the music of the sounds of The Dwayne Jordan Trio. Photos: Mel Brown @melbrownphotography