On the RT Radar: Multidisciplinary Artist Mirabelle Jones

An artist whose main tool is her vulnerability

Cover image from Jones's piece To Skin a Catcaller, courtesy of Bella Donna. 

To Skin a Catcaller.  Photo courtesy of Bella Donna. 

To Skin a Catcaller. Photo courtesy of Bella Donna. 

Mirabelle asks me if I am scared of heights and I lie, shaking my head as I take in the wobbly ladder leading up to the roof of Oakland’s B4B3L4B gallery. The air is fresh on top; a gentle sun with a light breeze, and we sit side-by-side on a rooftop park bench overlooking Oakland’s Chinatown.

“I’m a little nervous,” I admit to her. “I have never interviewed anyone like you.”

She laughs. “Don’t be.”

But my confession, like my previous lie over my fear of heights – wasn’t just an attempt at politeness: Where does one begin with an artist whose skills– from photography to fiction to endurance performance art –seem to be approaching infinity at a rate faster than I’ve ever seen the fingers of fog spread out across the Bay?

Jones in her performance piece,  Maybe It's Maybelline.  Photo courtesy of Chris Warfield. 

Jones in her performance piece, Maybe It's Maybelline. Photo courtesy of Chris Warfield. 

I start by taking the cheap way out; I ask her to try to describe herself and her work to me.

Mirabelle Jones is a Bay Area native and queer multidisciplinary artist. She began her artistic career as a writer, something I could tell immediately by her immaculate ability to craft sentences. Upon realizing that writing isn’t always the best medium for getting her ideas across, Jones expanded her portfolio. Now, she works in whatever medium best serves the promulgation of her radical ideas.

This includes her To Skin a Catcaller performance, in which she confined herself to a small glass box decorated inside with phrases common to street harassment, wearing nothing but her bra and underwear.

It also includes Jarring III  a series of letterpress-printed and handbound books exploring the various experiences of women who have survived sexual assault.

And my favorite, the extraordinarily powerful Art Against Assault, a grassroots organization Jones founded that encourages the creation of survivor-directed art projects.

“Art is the most powerful vehicle for creating connections to other human beings,” she tells me.

I am astounded by her confidence, her ability to so skillfully process difficult subject matters through art. But, she explains that it isn’t confidence that fuels her seemingly Wonder Woman-esque persona. Rather, it is an acceptance and a celebration of her vulnerability.

“Everything that I do is an attempt to strip myself bare of the ego.”

Jones in her performance piece  Comfort and Civilization . Photo courtesy of Luma Jaguar. 

Jones in her performance piece Comfort and Civilization. Photo courtesy of Luma Jaguar. 

Mirabelle Jones in her photo essay  Playing Dead.  Photo courtesy of artist. 

Mirabelle Jones in her photo essay Playing Dead. Photo courtesy of artist. 

Jones’ willingness to not just acknowledge her vulnerability – but to so audaciously put it out on display – is perhaps what allows her to skillfully mesh together social activism and art. She seems wild – with her sometimes blue hair and predilection towards fairly unmarketable art – but she is extraordinarily thoughtful. Each piece she produces is a delicate study of how to take unheard narratives and transform them into a palatable, although often uneasy to digest, piece of art.

“If I am trying to sell anything,” she tells me, “It’s the idea that our vulnerability is beautiful.”

So although she faces the same struggle as most artists – how to create something meaningful whilst also making money– she isn’t discouraged. Like I said, Jones feels limitless, and doesn't let something like making money keep her from creating the art she knows she is meant to make. 

You can check out more of Jones’s impressive display of vulnerability on her website.

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Sarah Adler