BY CHEREESE SHEEN
In elementary school, Tiandra Jones could always be found smelling the crayon boxes in art class. Her obsession for the faint smell of wax was only the beginning of her passion for art. Although Jones’ mother likes to take full credit for her artistic ability, Jones credits the teachers she has met throughout the years for guiding her strokes since kindergarten.
“My mother swears she is the reason because she put a crayon and a piece of paper in front of me. I absolutely loved finger paint and crayons and markers,” Jones said.
Now, a York College senior studio arts major, Jones did not see herself pursuing art until middle school.
“In junior high school I applied to an art and music school, but I didn’t get in and it discouraged me a bit,” said Jones.
She was so disappointed that she stopped drawing. It was not until Jones attended Louis D. Brandeis High School located in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, that her spirits lifted.
“I met the teacher who started to shape my art career, Ms. Cheryl Brown,” Jones recalled.
During her first year at Brandeis Jones was awarded the Haney Medal from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Haney Medal is awarded to a ninth or tenth grade student who has shown the most growth and potential in the field of art. Throughout her remaining years in high school, Jones also received several awards at school art shows. She also played the cello as a requirement of being in the Braneis Scholars Program.
Brandeis High School officially phased out in 2009 and officially closed June 29, 2012, it was the lowest performing school in New York State at the time with a four year graduation rate of 33 percent, according to published reports. The building now houses several charter schools, and is known as Brandeis High School Campus.
Jones’ skills could have guaranteed her an acceptance letter from any of New York’s well-known art schools, but the Crown Heights native decided she would apply to York College due to financial and personal reasons.
“[The other art schools are] way too expensive, I also felt my work was not as sophisticated as it should have been when applying to such a school, but since taking art classes [at York] I feel like I’m ready for a more art [based] school heading into my Master’s,” Jones explained.
Without the help of York professors Nina Buxenbaum, Maki Hajikano, David Antonio Cruz and Nicole Awai, Jones would never have pictured herself obtaining her Master’s degree.
“They taught me new skills and techniques, and were very encouraging,” said Jones. “They have helped me reach an all time high in appreciating art for what it is and [the artist] who makes it. They have been amazing professors.”
Although Jones loved many of her professors, she was less impressed with the condition of the Fine Arts classrooms.
“I would really love it if the art department got a makeover, [art] may not be a primary subject in schools. If the studios [at York] got an upgrade, me and my fellow art mates, and future art students would be able to produce amazing and successful works of art, said Jones.
Not only does Jones participate in the art showcases on campus, but she is also a powerful force on the Cardinals Women’s Volleyball team. Over the last three years, Jones has played in a total of 255 sets, making about 240 points. Showing her versatility, she has alternated between outside hitter and middle hitter.
“[Balancing art and volleyball] is not as hard as it might seem,” said Jones. “When you are passionate about something it comes natural. Sure I get frustrated with the two sometimes, but my love for them won’t let me quit.”
Renee Thompson, Women’s Volleyball new coach, said Jones’ artistic ability helps her on the court as well. Jones is always aware of her teammates location on the court.
“Tiandra is a great artist, and her dedication to her craft is unmatched,” said Thompson. “Her attention to detail shows as a player on the court as well as in her paintings. She always knew where each person was suppose to be and what they should be doing, not a lot of players were able to grasp that skill.”
Jones categorizes herself as a self-proclaimed painter who dabbles in sculpting and mastering the usage of oil based clay. Even Jones’ favorite artists range from painters to sculptors. AJones favorite artists are Georgia O’Keeffe, Nicole Awai, Kara Walker, Lucian Freud, Kehinde Wiley, Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet.
Although she “dabbles” in sculpting, Jones’ most enjoyable creation was her first sculpture.
“The pineapple blender one,” said Jones with a laugh. “It was my first successful sculpture. It was for a project called organic mechanical transfusion in professor Maki Hajikano’s class.”
Because of her drawing nature, Jones always loved Prismacolor Markers and color pencils. Prismacolor Markers are designed for detailed work and feature a dye-based alcohol ink formulation that ensures rich color saturation, coverage and an easy ink flow.
Most of her artwork is done with oil paint, which has become one of her favorites since that is what her professors require.
Jones’ recent piece has proved to be her hardest one yet — a self-portrait that is five feet long.
“[The self-portrait] is huge,” said Jones. “Five feet is the biggest thing I have ever done. And to make it look like myself was even crazier. The color combination of my skin was hard to match. I still feel like there is still so much to do.”
Meanwhile Jones’ biggest fear as a creator is becoming the stereotypical struggling artist.
“It is sad to say that [being a struggling artist] might become my future,” said Jones. “Art is not respected as much as other majors, especially if you aren’t the type of artist an employer is looking for.”
To counteract her chances of becoming a struggling artist, Jones will continue to master her craft, study artists who came before her, and continue to create masterpieces. Jones hopes to join academia to persuade and encourage others to take art as seriously as she does.
“I ultimately want to be an art professor, so that I can give to students what my professors gave to me,” said Jones. “I want to start in high school and work my way up.”
All photos were taken by Chereese Sheen in slideshow.