Artist feature: Stamps student Jordyn Fishman exhibits work at ArtPrize | Arts & Culture

Artist feature: Stamps student Jordyn Fishman exhibits work at ArtPrize

Artist feature: Stamps student Jordyn Fishman exhibits work at ArtPrize

U-M Stamps student Jordyn Fishman. Photo courtesy of the artist.

ArtPrize is an open, independently organized international art competition that takes place for 19 days each fall in Grand Rapids, Michigan. From September 20 to October 8, up to 400,000 spectators are expected to flock to the city for the ninth iteration of “the most attended public art event on the planet.”

This year’s Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design faculty and alumni participating in ArtPrize include professor Louis Marinaro, associate professor Rebekah Modrak, and alumna Miriam Svidler-Maximkov (BFA 2011).

Also participating is Jordyn Fishman, a current junior in the Stamps School who hails from Grand Rapids. Her painting, Income Inequality, Imagine is on view at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Nicole Cischke from U-M Arts & Culture recently sat down with Fishman to talk about her work and expectations for this year’s competition.

"Income Inequality, Imagine" Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Income Inequality, Imagine” Photo courtesy of the artist.

NC: First, congratulations on getting accepted into this year’s ArtPrize competition! What made you decide to enter?

Fishman: I wasn’t gonna submit because I thought there was no way I’d get in. My mom told me I should do it. It was pretty much on a wing—I was just like “I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna email a curator a million times until she answers me.” I eventually got an interview, and when they told me I got it I cried for like two days. It was unbelievable.

NC: What was the submission process like?

Fishman: I submitted the work through the ArtPrize portal. The venue, in my case the Grand Rapids Art Museum, must accept your request to exhibit in their venue. Then, specific to the Grand Rapids Art Museum, they narrow it down to a pool of artists that get an interview. During the interview, they mainly asked me about my process, my history, and my research. A lot of venues don’t typically have an interview process, but the GRAM [Grand Rapids Art Museum] does. I think that the UICA [Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts] does too.

NC: Can you tell me a little bit about what motivates your work?

Fishman: My work is primarily painting, focused on themes of social justice and activistism, with the goal of initiating change. The main intersections I work within are race, class and gender.

"Income Inequality, Imagine" panel 1. Photo courtesy of the artist.
"Income Inequality, Imagine" panel 2. Photo courtesy of the artist.
"Income Inequality, Imagine" panel 3. Photo courtesy of the artist.

NC: Tell me about Income Inequality, Imagine, your work that is featured in ArtPrize.

Fishman: Income Inequality, Imagine is a triptych mixed media painting made with oil paint, acrylic paint, nail polish, glitter, charcoal, pastel, and graphite. It is 24 ft. x 5.5 ft. and it took roughly four months to complete. The theme of Income Inequality is broken down into three parts: the first part is housing segregation, the second is unequal educational opportunities, and the third is the job market. Each panel feeds into the next—it’s a cycle. The very end of the painting is the Imagine portion of the title. It depicts a world that runs on love rather than money and power. Through the painting, I ask people to acknowledge the inequality that exists within the United States, think of ways to create a greater deal of equality, and imagine using love—the strongest and most important thing in this world—to create that.

NC: What have you learned from working through themes of social justice and activism via art?

Fishman: For me, when I dig down into what is at the root of all these things that I’m talking about, it kept coming back to money—money for problems with race, money for problems with class, money with problems for gender, money with problems for going to the doctor, going to the right grocery store, with food justice. And I don’t want to say it’s a linear problem because it’s a cycle. It’s a complete circle between the start of your life—where you live, your home—which leads to the education you get, which leads to the job you get, which feeds into the next generation.

NC: What is your creative process like?

Fishman: I would say it starts off with writing, and not so much in a formal way. A lot of my ideas start with phrases that you can find in a lot of my work. Like for example, my latest one is “Love Dunks!,” and I used that to encompass a bigger theme. The work in ArtPrize uses the phrase “1% baddest and best,” which lends itself to greater theme of Income Inequality. So it usually starts with those little phrases and expands from there. And then I do a couple of quick sketches, and then from there it’s pretty much loud music and documentaries while I’m working.

"Income Inequality, Imagine" process sketch. Image courtesy of the artist.
"Income Inequality, Imagine" process sketch. Image courtesy of the artist.
"Income Inequality, Imagine" process sketch. Image courtesy of the artist.

NC: How does it feel knowing that you’ll be showing work at ArtPrize—an event that has been recognized as the most-attended public art event in the world?

Fishman: I didn’t know that. That’s pretty cool. Ok. How does it feel? It feels like me crying for three days straight. I mean, it’s one step closer to my dream.

NC: What’s your dream?

Fishman: My dream is to be able to spread a message on a large scale through what I love, art. That message is love. Love for this world, for one another, and for yourself.


Fishman also wrote a poem to accompany her triptych mixed media painting.

“Income Inequality, Imagine”

We all have to step back and look what we’ve done.
And I say “we” cause it’s not one.  

This world runs on money and power.

It starts at the home and where that’s at.
Whether it’s concrete or grass, it’s based on class,
separated by color, collar, and dollar.  

The lines separating our yards
are the same ones that guard the access to great education in this nation.

Keeping the people from learning keeps them from earning.
If you don’t have the proper label,
sometimes you can’t get a job that’s stable.  

It’s unequal opportunity that prevents us from finding unity.

We strive and thrive for paper that’s not real.
We got sucked into this big game and it’s a shame.
Don’t blame but let’s find a new name.  

A name called Love.

What if we could run off this?
I know they’ve tried and they got dissed.
But I’m going to give my best shot cause this is all we got.

Unclench that fist, there is no order and no borders.

Join us and maybe we can find more unity from community to community.