Born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, Jordan first came to Providence to attend Rhode Island School of Design. Alongside his art, he built a career as a grassroots organizer, helping to fight and pass multiple criminal justice reform milestones, including Probation Reform, the Unshackling Pregnant Prisoners Bill, and laying the groundwork for the “Ban the Box” movement in Rhode Island.
Jordan serves as Co-Director of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, a people-powered nonprofit agency, and most recently worked as the Director of Public Policy at the Nonviolence Institute.
He serves on the Providence Board of Canvassers, overseeing the city’s elections; as a Board Member at New Urban Arts in Providence; and as a Board Member for Protect Families First, working on community-oriented drug policy reform. He has received fellowships from the Art Matters Foundation, the Rhode Island Foundation, and he currently serves as the Community Leader Fellow at Roger Williams University School of Law.
Seaberry attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2015. His work has been included most recently in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art exhibition State of the Art, 2020 and the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum New England Biennial, 2019. Recent solo exhibitions include We Speak Upon the Ashes at Steven Zevitas Gallery, Boston, MA, Black Light/Black Heat at Steam Gallery, Lincoln School, Providence, RI and A Blacker Landscape at University of Rhode Island, Providence, RI.
“Most narratives around people like my grandfather say the Great Migration was set in motion by Black families emigrating North in search of jobs. But the direction of American water has always been toward escape: refugee flight patterns.
The suite of paintings in The Current of American Water grew from this push and pull. Excavating with a power sander became as much a painting tool as the brushes. Part of my family’s narrative exists here in repeat: my grandfather being chased from his Mississippi home by the Ku Klux Klan, and other stories weave in and out. Water reoccurs, flowing in an ocean, poured from a basin, contained or free, life-giver or graveyard.
As an artist and organizer, I make paintings and policies in equal measure, and these stories feed both. My political and legislative work operate as extensions of the paintings, and the paintings are generative spaces for the organizing. I think artists should feel embedded, indebted and integral to the efforts to end cash bail, to outlaw housing discrimination, to protect abortion rights, and so on.
Like politics, my painting process is a confounding one. I approach each piece as “call-and-response,” wherein each element calls for an answer- a subtraction, addition, reboot. Paintings take months, often years to complete, with many “finished” layers hidden underneath. For me, each painting’s meaning is discovered within the lifetime of its creation, on the canvas itself. They move as social movements do: evolving in real time, bound by the edges of the canvas, but free to grow within those bumpers. Taking shape, taking current, like the water itself.” - Jordan Seaberry