LaJae Essence is a visual and spoken word artist better known as Poetry Jackson. Her first solo exhibit, “The 20/20 Visual Experiment,” opens Friday, January 3 with a performance and reception at the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center. Rebecca Evans interviewed LaJae about the event, her artistic background, and spoken word in Hampton Roads.

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Interview Transcript:

Rebecca: LaJae Essence is a visual and spoken word artist better known as Poetry Jackson. Her first solo exhibit, "The 20/20 Visual Experiment," opens Friday, January 3rd with a performance at the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center. You'll experience Jackson's spoken word alongside animated projections of the art in the gallery. Then you'll see acrylic and oil paintings inspired by her words and projections. It's a unique mix of science, poetry, and art. I spoke with Poetry Jackson about what to expect.

LaJae: I was really heavily inspired by the different colors of the rainbow and how those colors associate with different energy centers and a lot of Eastern philosophy. I think you guys will be able to feel that and get a taste for that when you see the poetry and projections, and then after that we'll be leading into the gallery and then you guys will be able to see the art that was inspired by the visuals.

Rebecca: How do you want people to walk away feeling?

LaJae: I hope to align their chakras. With all the colors and the sounds, I really just want people to walk out of there vibrating, and that's the goal. Like, I want them to really feel the energy in the room, you know, and I feel like we can reach and paint a picture with people and with sounds and with colors to bring all those elements together: the spoken word poetry, the poetry and projections following the exhibit. On the 4th, we're gonna be doing a painted meditations event, so they'll be able to come out and paint with me and see what it's like to bring a landscape to life.

Rebecca: So what is painted meditation?

LaJae: It's kind of the idea or the emotion, the thought process behind the creation of the art. It's more than just like a paint class or art class. I'm really trying to explain and bring out people's inner artists, you know, and really spark the inspiration that's going to last after the class. We use the sun, the sky, the water, all these symbolic elements. I go through the different ideas of color and the different ideas of what the water means and what the sky means and what it could mean to different people, and so when they look at these paintings, it's like a place that you can go, you know, a beautiful place that you can create.

Rebecca: So how did you first begin making art?

LaJae: I always doodled, you know, and I never really thought that I would be a visual artist. It wasn't like something that I dreamed of. Originally, I thought I'd be a songwriter. I love spoken word poetry. That's my first love. And so I actually got writer's block after I recorded my first album and a good friend said, "You should try to paint. It'll get your creative juices flowing." And I remember the first time I picked up the brush, I was like, this feels unnatural. Like, it just didn't feel, it wasn't like a pen. I was so used to holding a pen or a pencil, but I picked up the brush and I never put it down.

Rebecca: Yeah. What about spoken word?

LaJae: Spoken word...I've been writing poetry since I was in third grade. I went to school in Queens, New York, and I remember my first poetry book. It was, like, it won out of like a lot of different schools in the city and it got published, and so that was really, really exciting for me really young. When I moved to Virginia in 2006, I started doing spoken word, working with different...I think it was a woman at my job, and she introduced me. She said, "Come out to a spoken word event" and it was my first time performing my poetry, because I had notebooks, like just piles of notebooks. Like my whole life, I've always had a pocketbook for my makeup, but then I had another bag for my notebooks, like a real, real poet. That's kind of how I started performing, like just working with different creatives in the area that were into it.

Rebecca: So other than this exhibit, obviously, where else would you recommend people go in Hampton Roads to check out spoken word?

LaJae: Well, I'll tell you, my good friend Q5, he hosts C.I.P.H.E.R. Tuesdays every Tuesday at the Train Station Restaurant. So it's a really, really beautiful environment. It's really uplifting. It's so, so creative. Also, the Venue on 35th Street. They do great events. So if you're just starting out, if you want to perform your poetry or you want to see what the area's got, the poets out here are simply amazing.

Rebecca: Before she left, I asked Poetry Jackson to share one of her spoken word pieces with us. Here it is.

LaJae: The journey awaits you. The colors sedate you. Symbols awake you. Feels like déjà vu. Did you dream this before? The painting hanging neatly on the wall? You standing there in awe. Taken in by the pure beauty and essence of it all. Nostalgic, isn't it? The tones, textures and hues she picked. The simplistic depiction of an idea, a concept so vividly descriptive. Only an artist could have did this. She was channeling brilliance. Something great was flowing through her when she drew her. I looked at the picture and I thought that I knew her. Something bright was on her mind when she created that sky. Like I marveled at the sun and the moon at the same time. I felt like I balanced the spheres of my mind. She had a vision when she created that last piece, nothing short of a masterpiece, a timeless, true classic piece.

Rebecca: That was Poetry Jackson, the visual and spoken word artist and you can check out her first solo exhibit, "The 20/20 Visual Experiment" at her reception and performance Friday, January 3rd at 6:30 at the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center in Newport News. It's free and open to the public. Her painted meditation class will be offered Saturday, January 4th at 2:00, and you can check out the exhibit through January 24th. Learn more at