Jasmine Castillo, artist and founder of the Escape Artists Collective interviewed by Noah Klein.
Why did you found Escape Artists Collaborative, and what is the message behind your organization?
Escape Artists is a representation of my brain’s thought patterns. I love all art forms and have always enjoyed experiencing art on all levels through all mediums. I never wanted to settle in just one. My curiosity for all these various art forms led me to think about how artists create the work they do, try to understand how their processes work, and to imagine what it would be like to witness the artists themselves create masterpieces?
This line of thinking spawned the concept of a behind-the-scenes, interactive experience like no other. I want to disrupt the format that’s currently running in galleries and instead have a more intimate, one-on-one experience. That’s why we provide interactive experiences with unconventional artists, to bring you behind the scenes into the lifestyle of these artists.
Are you an artist? If yes, what is your medium and do you consider event planning an art form?
I believe we all are artists. Some are what I like to call practicing artists, who work their talents every day and have created a lifestyle around it. Others are hobbyists who enjoy doing it during their free time. We’re all creators, and we can all create.
I happen to be a documentarian, a storyteller through photography and film. I also use Escape Artists as a platform to tell my story alongside these other artists. The themes are based on my own perceptions and experiences and I craft the events to take people through these different ways of telling a story. So yes, producing an event is an art form within itself. You must know how to tell a story in order to captivate and engage your audience.
In your mission statement on your website you cite “creation and interaction” as integral parts of artistry and professional life. Could you explain to me how these two concepts fuel the creative output of the young, contemporary artists you represent, and your own work as well?
These two areas have influenced the direction of my life, and to understand what it means to create — not just for myself, but also for the world. We all create to tell a story. We want our story heard. To create and interact together makes your piece of work bigger than you. The concepts of unity and community are automatically intertwined when you create and interact with others. My entrepreneur skills, my abilities to adapt to change, to challenge myself to grow and to love people of all walks was due to my parents exposing me to creation and interaction with others. I wanted to create so we can have our story told. It was never just about me.
What exhibitions has Escape Artists Collective planned in the past?
Escape Through the Looking Glass is our fourth exhibit in the past two years since we launched. Our themes are based on life, culture, and celebration. Our exhibits from the first to the most recent are: Escape Art (based on the idea of escaping the norm and diving into a whole new experience); Vida Futura (After Life), which is about the transition an art form goes through to become a living piece of work; Amare La Vita (To Love Life), which was a homage to carnival and the celebration of life and indulgence; and, finally, Escape Through The Looking Glass which is an experiential type of event based off the concept of how our perception of self is created and how do we really see ourselves.
Please explain the focus and what you are trying to accomplish with your new exhibition, Escape Through the Looking Glass.
We want people to experience themselves through the eyes of others, the others being the artists. By allowing people to experience creation, they learn something about themselves. They begin to question who they are, what they like, what are they actually capable of. We want people to question themselves and walk away learning something new based off this interactive, retrospective experience.
Please tell me about some of the artists in your exhibition. Do you have a personal favorite, if yes, why?
Each artist has an interesting story, and I truly love each art form each artist exhibits. Each artist, though many work with mixed media, are very different in their style. Mixed Media is so general and can only get specific when you observe and learn the individual artist’s craft. I selected these artists due to their uniqueness and quality of storytelling — each artist completely conveys who he or she is through their art. They create extensions of their identity through their art pieces, and I knew they would be perfect for this particular theme involving perception and creation of that perception. So each artist has affected me in their storytelling ways. I actually LOVE each artist, seriously, but I do have a favorite: it’s Dizmology. His art is borderline genius with the use of math, science, and expression. It has always made me question myself, “Who am I?” and “Who do I want to be?”
Escape Through the Looking Glass seems to incorporate a wide definition of what art is including food, multimedia collaborations, and graffiti. Graffiti, especially, could be categorized as “street” art. Could you tell me your thoughts on “institutional” art vs. “street” art, and why Escape Through the Looking Glass incorporates these various art forms?
As mentioned earlier, art can be anything. Art to me is a tangible creation that is made to express one’s perception on life. Whether the majority consensus believes something is art or not, I believe any form of expression can be art —whether we like it or not.
So, as an example of my views, take graffiti. It is an expression when one tells the world their story, their views, and who they are. While I don’t condone vandalism, I do condone art expressed in a creative way. Which includes street art. Now, what is considered vandalism is subjective. I believe if you create work that is focused on expression “street” art can definitely be considered art. Tagging up, to me, isn’t art. It’s only territorial based on its roots and its sole purpose. Growing up in the Bronx (New York City) I saw many fights, some pretty serious ones, over tagging (writing one’s alias name) in neighborhoods outside of where they lived and buffing (going over someone else’s name) to show whose territory it really is. It was street wars pretty much, entertaining at some moments, but pretty violent others. Tagging usually involves blocks, gangs or crews, and if you tagged up somewhere you didn’t belong then you were looking to start shit. So that’s what I mean by being creatively expressive versus just spraying your territory (literally and figuratively).