Life as an Open Studio
Interview by YÃ©tÃºndÃ© Olagbaju // Portrait by Mancy Gant
Lenworth McIntosh Jr., known as Joonbug, is not just an artist with a strong name but also a prolific creator. His artistic journey and reclamation of his full name speak to the complexities of his personal history. From our friendship and artistic collaboration, I have witnessed firsthand Joonbug’s talent and authenticity. With his camera and sketchbook always at hand, Joonbug brings his characters to life, imbuing them with a vibrant and mischievous energy that resonates deeply. These characters, born from Joonbug’s unique insights and memories, hold a timeless quality in their compositions.
The Stories I Tell Myself
Joonbug’s latest exhibition, “The Stories I Tell Myself,” invites us into his vulnerable and honest exploration of childhood memories and their influences. Through his art, he elongates time, immersing himself in the introspective moments of his past. The exhibition serves as both a love letter and an examination, offering a space for reflection rather than dictating a specific narrative.
A Journey of Creation and Growth
In my conversation with Joonbug, we delved into the broader inspirations and intentions behind his exhibition. He shared that initially, he faced the challenge of working on large canvases, oscillating between confidence and apprehension. Drawing from his experience in creating murals, Joonbug approached the task with determination, unyielding to the daunting size. However, he soon realized that oil paints required a different approach, especially when blocking out the initial layers. Through the process of underpainting, Joonbug honed his technique and incorporated newfound knowledge into his later works, resulting in a distinct shift in style while maintaining a cohesive family of artworks.
The final piece in the series, “Soul Shakedown Party,” represented a culmination of Joonbug’s learnings and growth throughout the exhibition. Conceptually, Joonbug envisioned himself stepping into the skin of his younger self, immersing himself in the memories of his childhood. He aimed to recreate these memories from the perspective of his younger self, capturing the wonder, curiosity, and limited understanding of the world. This approach created a dialogue between the artist’s present self and his younger self, highlighting the unique perspective of a child navigating an adult-centric world.
An Engagement with Memories
Joonbug’s artistic journey extends beyond his personal experiences. He also explores the complexities of his relationship with Jamaica, engaging with childhood memories intertwined with the fantastical. These memories resurfaced during a visit to Jamaica after almost 18 years, triggering a flood of suppressed emotions and vivid recollections. Through his art, Joonbug sought to capture the essence of these memories as he experienced them during his childhood, paying homage to his younger self’s perspective. He also delved deeper