Capturing Essence, artist Jasmine Dillavou’s recent exhibition at Kreuser Gallery in downtown Colorado Springs, CO, isn’t just a title — it also helps describe her creative process.
Jasmine makes paper casts of personal relics that reflect her Puerto Rican heritage by molding meticulous layers of ultra-delicate calligraphy paper. She says this method distills the very soul of these items, ranging from hoop earrings and religious wall hangings, to natural objects like shells and flowers.
Capturing Essence: Latinx Artist Jasmine Dillavou
Jasmine Dillavou Captures the Essence of her Puerto Rican Heritage
“The process itself of paper casting is sort of ritualistic and meditative — and a practice in patience,” Jasmine says. Collecting items primarily from her home, and her mother’s home, Jasmine slowly and carefully layers soft, wet, calligraphy paper over top of them, “over, and over, and over again,” she says, “carefully tucking into the edges to make sure I’m getting every little crevice, and every little moment of that item, captured in the paper.”
She allows each layer to harden — a slow process. Once the object has been sufficiently coated with paper and dried, she peels the cast away, “keeping the energy of that piece alive without having the physical object itself,” she says.
In other words — capturing its essence.
“In the work I make, I like to talk about my own experiences, and how they relate to Latinx culture, history, ancestry, and decolonization — these kinds of big, huge things that encompass my life and the people around me that I love,” says Jasmine. A Visual and Performing Arts graduate of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Jasmine’s practice encompasses a wide array of installation and performance art, spoken and written word, and multi-media techniques including video.
A collaboration with regional artists Su Kaiden Cho and Jimmy Gable was recently chosen by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College to be included in its inaugural 3x3 project, a call for artists across disciplines to interpret and represent both iconic and subversive narratives of the Rocky Mountain West and American Southwest.
This project, Tethered Mountains, is a performance captured on video and layered with contemporary dance and poetry spoken from two different cultural perspectives, and in two different languages. The poem ties the concepts of migration, mountain movement, and a notion of the “Wild West” with imagery of contemporary, interpretive movements set against a Colorado backdrop.
Jasmine says her exhibition at Kreuser Gallery gave her a chance to explore some of the same themes and topics, yet in a new context. “How do you take the soul of an inanimate object, and transform it?” she asks. One of her favorite examples, she says, are her casts of hoop earrings.
“I think hoop earrings are the most empowering thing in the whole world,” Jasmine says. “You put them on and you become like a bigger, braver version of yourself. And I always think, the bigger the hoops, the better you’re day is going to be.”
“And it’s a cultural signifier. It’s part of my history,” she says. “If you are a strong Latina, you’d better rock big hoops. It’s part of who you are. It is a reminder of your strength and empowerment.”
Paper casting, Jasmine says, is a pathway to finding her self.
“Once you own your identity, and you honor it, and you say, ‘I’m going to put my whole energy into who I am, and own up to it,’ — that is an act of resistance in itself,” she says. “It is an act of preservation. It gives you permission to survive, and thrive.”
By sharing her own stories, Jasmine hopes to open the doors for more artists and women of color to see themselves reflected, and to express themselves.
“Every time you tell your story, you give permission to another person to tell their story,” she says. “And we do that over and over again when we’re making art, just constantly open up space for other people to feel welcome and heard. Then maybe I have opened up a small space for other people to tell those stories, too, and feel really heard and represented.”