Jamian Juliano Villani: Me, Myself and Jah

We were lucky enough to feature Brooklyn artist Jamian Juliano Villani in our latest issue. Here we talk to her about Jersey accents, gender, and efficiency in art. Jamian’s first solo show Me, Myself and Jah, opens at Rawson Projects in New York on September 14th.

CM: Your work has a very cartoonish vibe, like corrupted Disney or twisted Looney Tunes. Did you watch a lot of cartoons growing up?

JJV: I mean, as much as any kid… but I’m not super into cartoons in particular. I definitely like how legible cartoons are to look at; they do tons of shit in a simplistic way, so, I think they’re a pretty efficient and populist way to go about making paintings.

When you say ‘efficient,’ do you mean efficient for telling a story, or just for getting across a general visual experience?

Well, both. The narratives in my paintings (if they have one) usually have some subliminal ethos underneath everything that’s going on. But they have a lot of information so I feel it’s good to give something solid to focus on, like the cartoon quality…It kind of socializes the paintings with whoever wants to look at them, if that makes sense. They’re democratic!

There’s definitely some subliminal ethos going on here. It’s funny, they are light-hearted and disturbing at the same time.

Totally. You know how when you hear something totally awful, like that someone’s friend died? And you get nervous and anxious, but you don’t know how to respond, so you end up laughing out of some weird reaction? They’re kind of like that.

Where did you live before coming to Brooklyn?


Do you have one of those accents?

I definitely have a Jersey accent. I went to a state school (Rutgers) so maybe that gives some insight into why my shit looks the way it does (laughs).

Are state schools a nasty place to be?

No, it’s the best. You don’t get wrapped up in masturbatory art programs, and you have bio-chem kids in your drawing class. It reminds you other people exist besides yourself and the Blinky Palermo rip-off you’ve been working on.

I was surprised to discover you are a lady when I looked you up online. I don’t know why I just assumed you were a guy based on your art. I can’t believe it.

That rules! I get that all the time!

Especially because your name is pretty gender-neutral.

It kind of works out; I hate work done by a woman that is about being a woman, or looks like a woman made it. You can just tell, you know?! It looks soft or something. I’m gonna get killed for that one. I think some woman artists are great, like Gertrude Abercrombie and Wendy White. Wendy White is doing things Ruscha dreamed of, she’s an example of a woman painter doing it totally right.

Do you have a favorite artist?

Mike Kelley, hands down. John Welsey is a close second, and all the Chicago imagists, Morandi too! I could go on forever, but I won’t (laughs). I think its tough, really loving an artist’s full body of work. I want to look at it all day, but if I did, I’d make a shittier, watered-down version of their work.

It can become hard to distinguish between your own ideas and something you’ve seen from someone you admire.

I actually kind of stopped looking. I think if I just stick with the things I like to paint, and paint them the way I know how, it’ll stay fresh for me. There’s too much cool shit out there!

Jamian Juliano Villani, Me, Myself and Jah: September 14th- October 20th, Rawson Projects,
233 Franklin Street Brooklyn NY 11222