“I was born a romantic and my whole life has been dedicated to telling the story of the love I dream of.”
GAHSP recently met with Jeauni Cassanova, New York based GOD(DESS) of Self-Portraits whose work has always been centered around the mystery of romance. As a child, Jeauni acted, danced, sang, played dress up, photographed, edited, made music, painted, drew, wrote poetry and stories. Jeauni’s first self-portrait came to life at the age of 11. “Only until recently did self-portraits become a focal point of my creative endeavours. It was almost as if it was an opportunity to use all of the mediums of my childhood in one – my entire life was spent preparing to create this universe of beauty where the femme is in love, free, and boundless.” - explains the young Creative who goes by the pronouns ‘Jeauni’.
“My first self-portrait in the “PERFUME” series is the piece I am most proud of. It was the beginning of work that I couldn’t believe I had created and the first time I had really felt like I saw myself the way I felt on the inside. This piece, along with the entire on-going series, is a therapeutic effort to heal the pain surrounding my self-image and give the femme a place to roam free.” - Jeauni continues. Besides being the creator of the charismatic “PERFUME” series, Jeauni is also an Archival Fashion Collector, and an active shaper of the fashion and creative community in NYC.
THE Qu & A
What are 3 relevant problems that you wish to solve through your work?
This is an intriguing question because I don’t aim for my work to solve/fix anything happening in this world. We place this absurd pressure on artists that are often just trying to heal their own souls to then take on the weight of healing other problems and challenges. In a way, that pressure forces artists to create these false narratives around their work in order to seem more meaningful or poetic. It creates a lot of inauthenticity and I’d be a lot more interested if artists could create to just create. There would be a paralyzing amount of pressure to ever give my work that weight and I’m not interested in it. My work is extremely personal and, in a way, very selfish. Self-portraits, especially in my “PERFUME” series, have always been a way to heal my relationship with how I perceive myself, the intense feeling of having two spirits in one body, and empowering the femme identity. The most I can long for in my work is to allow the experience in this body to be easier. If other humans happen to feel moved to create a space of freedom, I will have done enough. It will be a small wave that will kiss a set of other waves and hopefully ripple out into something grander and more beautiful, but I alone will not be solely responsible.
What is your biggest concern regarding the future?
My biggest concern is a future in which my soul no longer exists – my small wave to end without meaning.
What are 3 values that you wish to mediate through your work?
Beauty can exist for the sake of beauty alone. Our entire existence in history has always depended and focused on beauty. The word cosmetics derives from the word cosmos and that relation, to me, translates into everything – everything we do is, at its very root, connected to the cosmos (something bigger than us). So many of us, especially artists, are so focused on the meaning that we can lose sight of the beauty. In my work, I look for the beauty and later the meaning finds me (although it was always there).
The FEMME is center-stage and is in need. There is a severe lack of feminine energy because we are taught to starve her of any light, water, and freedom. In opposition, masculine energy has been excessively over-cultivated. It’s my belief that it has left the global soul degraded and exhausted – there is no balance in our land and so many of us are suffering because of it.
To be in love is the greatest experience of all. So much of why I create is to capture the look of romance – the thrill and rush of chemicals that place you into a transient place that are often reserved for lovers, but can also be for ourselves. What would the affair look and feel like if it was with ourselves?
What is your biggest hope for the future?
My biggest hope for the future is for a life after this one. To be alive is really the greatest gift of all and I hope to get the chance to do it over and over again.
What is the downside of being a Creative that no one talks about?
We’re so fortunate to be in a time where every downside of being a creative is talked about – whether it’s exhaustion, lack of inspiration,imposter syndrome, struggling with money, or anything else, I know we’ve all read it, felt it, and spoken about it. However, the biggest downside I experience is not always feeling like THIS is the right thing. As I said earlier, I’ve been experimenting with so many mediums my entire life and I’ve spent it waiting for the moment where it just feels like, “yes, this is the thing i’m meant to do. I would die without it.” I can’t say I’ve had that about a specific medium and there’s this immensely irrational, unspoken pressure that if you don’t have that feeling then you’re sort of less than the artists that do. The closest I’ve ever come to that feeling is being in love – I know that is what I’m meant to do on this earth and that’s all I’ve experienced so far.
How does creativity help in challenging times to keep you energized - “CHARGED”?
I don’t know anyone that is energized or charged by creativity. Creativity exhausts you, it breaks you, and pushes you to the edge over and over again. It takes every ounce of your soul and being. We need to be honest with ourselves and other artists because it’s harmful to continue to perpetuate creativity as this thing that keeps people charged and energized like a battery. Every single creative I know is exhausted and their creativity keeps them hopeful, not energized. Hopeful they can be proud of themselves, hopeful to make their place in history, hopeful for something bigger and remaining hopeful keeps us all alive.
Short Reflection by Jeauni Cassanova
On Christmas in 2016, a fire broke out that destroyed all of my makeup, my vanity, and damaged several other parts of my apartment. The small fire started when one of my makeup brushes fell into a candle that would set the top of my vanity and both makeup bags on fire. Upon realizing the makeup bags were on fire, I quickly picked them up and moved them to the ground as a means to avoid them catching contact with my perfume bottles. After this, I moved to extinguish the fire with water and thankfully was able to put it out on my own after throwing several buckets of water onto it. The day after this experience, I was forced to put whatever remaining cosmetics and perfume bottles out on my bed as I threw out my vanity and repainted my walls. It was at this moment, as I placed the perfume bottles onto my bed that I thought to myself, “what if I photographed myself through these?” And that was the birth of the “PERFUME” series. Through a fire, my silver lining was finding the art I could be proud of.
This interview contributes to a new media format, where Creatives are in full control of their narratives. By exploring alternatives to narrative journalism, GAHSP starts unconventional conversations, emphasizing values and problems that shape our lives collectively.
Written and Edited by Julia Horvath
Image Courtesy of Jeauni Cassanova