We had the good fortune of connecting with Jaz Graf and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jaz, how do you think about risk?
Risk is putting yourself out there. Risk is taking a chance on yourself.
Risk is a playground of possibility.
I believe that artists are largely undervalued in society. Choosing the Artist’s career path is certainly risky in and of itself, yet, I also see it as an investment in oneself.
My artistic career trajectory has often been unpredictable. It truly continues to be a practice in the art of adaptability. Failure and loss are luxuries that I have graciously learned to indulge in the work. I like to experiment with materials, as well as ideas. Challenges are opportunities. At least, this is the approach I take as a paper, print, and book maker. These are art forms that are steeped in traditions which I seek to honor and to expand upon.
How does risk function in my life as an artist? It magnifies what is at stake. It elevates my purpose in the process. And, yes, it is, and I am, worth the risk, every time.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In the past few years, I have been very excited about an ongoing global project in which I collect the worn robes of Buddhist monks and turn it into handmade paper. I mix the sacred fabric with natural fibers and materials from everyday life to create intimate hand-stitched books and large-scale paper sculpture installations. Inspired by an investigation of my matrilineal Thai heritage, which has a strong influence from Buddhism, my research addresses the contextual relationships between archives and communities, their implications on culture, contemporary art and public attitudes. Engaging with Buddhist monastics and integrating their robes echoes ideas of impermanence and transformation. If you or someone you know would like to contribute used robes to this project I would be very grateful for your participation! Please get in touch with me directly through the links below.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The best part of my area in Jersey City, aka Chilltown, is the view along the Hudson River. When you come to my ‘hood we’d hop on bicycles, stop at Lobster Garage for a lobster roll to go, and follow the bike paths to a picnic spot in Liberty State Park. Every week, Groove on Grove has a farmers & artists market with live music downtown. The dulce de leche homemade ice cream at Torico’s is a must! There are great street murals all over the city to check out. On our art crawl we’d hit up Manna Contemporary and the Glass gallery after a stroll through little India. I love to take people to my artist studio at Gallery Aferro in Newark, NJ, which has over a dozen artist studios and a rotation of public exhibitions. My work is up at the Newark Museum in the 2021 NJ Arts Annual: ReVision and Respond exhibit which is on view from June 17–August 22, 2021.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My partner, Laos Fois, has been my rock. He is a photographer and we’ve been on the “alternative lifestyle” path together. His sense of humor and endless encouragement throughout the highs and lows are a blessing. Artists tend to be quite self-critical so it’s good to have someone to help keep things in perspective.
I’ve also got to shout out my tribe, the one’s that love to talk shop and fiber, a quirky variety of character – part punk-rock and farmer. My heart is filled with gratitude for these teachers, friends and magical strangers (esp. weirdos, misfits, outcasts and geeks) that have impacted my growth and development as a creative professional. During these pandemic times, working with my hands and papermaking in my studio, has been immensely therapeutic. I found myself reflecting on meaningful conversations I’ve had with these people and I believe that those reflections get “written” into the paper.