Mom Residency Highlights Self-Taught Multidisciplinary Artist Jillian M Rock

Artist Jillian M Rock

Introducing MOM’s most recent artist in residence, multidisciplinary artist Jillian M Rock.

In her work, Jillian M Rock utilizes print in various forms to archive narratives centered in Blackness. Through collage, risograph prints and accompanying narrative, her work is meant to amplify the everyday to dismantle stereotypes of Blackness.

As previously mentioned in our social media platforms, Rock is the owner of Rock Press, a Black woman run printing press aimed at amplifying access to the creation and dissemination of artists’ books and printed matter. Rock is also a teaching artist, an active member of the LAND Collective, on faculty at Studio Montclair and serves on the Board of Directors for the Newark Print Shop. She was in the 2020 Cohort of Feminist in Residence, at Project for Empty Space (PES). In speaking with Rock, her passion for her work in art education and her drive to enlighten her community clearly shine through all she does. Her passion for her work and unique perspective offer valuable insights each of us can learn about ourselves, and how we both live in and affect  the world around us.  This post-residency highlight aims to further  allow us to learn more about her work during her residency, as well as her personal thoughts throughout her stay while designing her project.   

When deciding to have her residency at the M.O.M. Art Annex, she wanted to work on her ongoing publication and audiovisual series  “When A Rock Rest,” which  highlights the significance of rest as a radical act of self-love and joy. Through photo documentation of life during the residency, as well as accompanying text, she wanted to develop a narrative art/photo book, consisting of collages aimed at dismantling stereotypes of the angry Black woman, and instead highlight how Black women, specifically Black mothers, fall further into their softness with rest, reflection, and recalibration. She signified it is a biographical journey of womanhood, motherhood and an ode to her last name, Rock. However, upon arrival at the annex, and taking in how much work the museum had on its walls, she changed her initial desires from wanting to create a larger framed collage to a piece she felt could best  live in the museum. This led her to the idea of creating a booklet. Ultimately, she felt a booklet was “something small enough to be tucked in or displayed separately,” allowing her individual work to be showcased in multiple ways, while still allowing the space to serve as an environment from which future  artists can both live and create without outside influence from previous works.

Finished Booklet Piece “Mama, All Roads Lead to You” an 11×17, 3 layer risograph print of a digital collage of photographs taken during Rock’s stay in the MOM Art annex for their archive collection. Printed at Print St.Pete. Piece contains the author’s poem, which can be found in full text below.

The process of designing and making her print into a  booklet served as a new feat for Rock, as she had never made a former booklet of her work. To not only broaden her knowledge in risograph printing but to expand her artist community, she traveled to the St. Pete Print shop-Print St.Pete, where she immediately connected with founder and artist Kaitlin Crockett. While there, she realized that in creating a booklet, accompanying text would need to be included. As the original idea of her work became to shift and reshape in her mind’s eye, she felt it necessary to include text in order to develop her new concept.  Ultimately it led to her creation of a concept she preferred over her initial plans.

Rock noted that she began the process of creating her piece slowly. Giving herself time to slow down, and ease into the work. She had time to be still, which in turn  altered her perspective. That is where her peace came from. As she continued to create, she traveled to the nearby beach, and took pictures of the scenery as well as outside of the museum. While doing all of this, she continuously wanted to emphasize the importance for such rest.  More specifically, the importance of rest for Black women. Rock identified that Black women are often stereotyped as “strong” and “aggressive” into a somewhat performative role in culture due to preconceived expectations. Therefore additional elements that highlight the other traits and characteristics Black women possess in society are overlooked. Thus creating an inaccurate representation. She argued that,  Black women are strong and can be aggressive. However such characteristics are not the only things by which they are defined, nor are they a hallmark by which to generalize the complex nuances of Black women’s characters. They still need rest and time for themselves-with the ability to be themselves.  The importance of this practice can be applied to all women, but especially mothers in particular. Which is what led to this perspective taking shape within her project and utilizing her own experiences in motherhood to create her project.

Rock’s unique story and narrative as a mother centers on wanting to be the mother she never had. Rock had her children young, in her early twenties, and loves having them around, spending time with them often and doing many things together. She believes having children young helped her form this close bond, as it allowed her to associate with her own generation while also allowing her to be present in the here and now.  In this way, motherhood and children helped form her into the person she is, and have kept her consistent. Further commenting on her relationship with her children, she acknowledges that she places them on equal footing with her, leading to a relationship dynamic that has fostered strong bonds of love and support. 

Artist Image in “Mama, All Roads Lead to You”

Rock wanted to highlight her confidence as a woman in her piece, regarding the combined importance of rest, self-fulfillment and sensuality. In developing her contribution to the M.O.M. archives, she had taken a picture of herself outside lounging in a thong-which ended up being the center of her piece adding the element of sensuality to those of motherhood and rest. Named “Mama, All Roads Lead to You” it is an 11×17 3 layer risograph print of a digital collage of photographs taken during her stay. Printed at Print St.Pete, the piece folds into a booklet, and contains the accompanying poem: 


What does returning to yourself mean when you have been someone else’s for so long?

*

Mama you deserve the lullaby,  the cooked meal, the storytime, kisses on your boo boo even when you’re in pain is inside, you earned that day, those hours, all the minutes to take time for time, to just be still

*

What does returning to yourself mean when you have been someone else’s for so long?

*

Babygirl, yes that body of yours has carried the world, 

both in past and present, but you deserve to decide 

what will happen going forward.

*

Silk against your skin

Mornings without interruptions

Nights of pleasure

*

Mama you deserve that lullaby.

*

You deserve you back!

…or front, or side

But anew

Mama you deserve you.

*

We know what being gentle does for the spirit , we 

practice it everyday

We know what being held feels like, as we are the holders

We know what forgiveness does for the heart; we are the 

light for the forgiven.

*

Mama you deserve that lullaby.

*

Gentle bubble baths while a seat is pulled up hearing your

favorite story

The far-off land that feels nothing and everything like

home

You are home and so you can run, as far and as fast as

you can to the light of piece…of play

*

Mama you deserve more than just one day.”

We can’t wait to have Jillian back as a returning resident artist and are so grateful for her fantastic contribution to M.O.M.’s archives.

To learn more about Jillian, her incredible work, and additional publications, please check out this link to her personal website: https://www.jillianmrock.com/

Also be sure to follow her on Insta, FB and Twitter for updates as well as more of her thoughts on our residency!

Instagram: @jillianmrock

Facebook: Jillian M Rock

Twitter: @JillianMRock

If you are interested in applying for a residency here at MOM, please go to our website HERE: https://bit.ly/3uRgugm  to find out more. BE SURE TO HURRY! Spots have been filling FAST! We hope that future tours of the space will be available soon, but they are by appointment only in Artist Enclave Historic Kenwood: “where art lives.”

Published by MOM

The Motherhood Foundation is a certified nonprofit 501c3 connecting Women, Mothers and Families through Music, Art, Activism and Education for Cultural, Economic & Social awareness. By creating, producing and presenting visual, literary, educational, academic, performing arts exhibits that celebrate, nurture and support women with a special emphasis on mothers, and their activities, MFI pays tribute to mothers (Moms). The Foundation gives individuals and groups of Moms opportunities for artistic, academic, and cultural presentations they might not otherwise have; free of age, race and socio-economic barriers. MFI cares about, and acts upon the status of women, mothers and families, while addressing important issues, creating meaningful content, and providing compelling educational and community experiences.

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