Up Close with NYSRP Alum Jacolby Satterwhite!


Jacolby Satterwhite
C-Print and still from Reifying Desire 5
53 x 30 inches

How did you initially hear about the New York Studio Residency Program?
I heard about the NYSRP because of previous alumni who participated in the program, I respected and admired their practices. I knew the program had a large applicant pool and was competitive to get into, and felt like being in New York for an extended period of time was important for me to pursue what I loved. I was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina. I had very limited access to culture and the arts when I was growing up. I always longed to see exhibitions, concerts, and have direct contact with what’s underground or next at the moment. So it was ideal for me to apply to the NYSRP.

MICA your alma mater, has been a big supporter of the NYSRP through the years.  Did you find that your education at MICA worked symbiotically with your educational experience at the NYSRP?
During my sophomore year at MICA, I received wonderful encouragement from faculty about the direction I was going in my work. They made me believe I had potential to do something great. The painting program was transitioning from a very academic and old-school paradigm to a contemporary one. I felt there were conflicting energies between the old and new, and I wanted to be in a space that allowed me to develop my own aesthetic value system and see the art of today in person. When I got to the New York Studio Residency Program, I was shocked by how there were no rules to making good art. My peers there were approaching their practices with a looseness that I wasn’t aware of at MICA. When I was at MICA I felt as if the program was rigorous with execution, labor, craftsmanship, and the notion of being a “responsible” artist. My concentrated time at the New York Studio Residency Program, taught me how to combine the instinctual, primal, parts of myself with the cerebral.

What discoveries did you make in your practice while at the NYSRP? Did the faculty help you to make these discoveries and how?
I began showing people my mothers drawings at the NYSRP, which has a major role in my work today. That’s where I initially became encouraged to work with them. The faculty there made me more excited about them. I began to brainstorm their role in my work and why I was married to them. The NYSRP was also where I began to rigorously study voguing with a painters lens. I made a lot of paintings of voguing dancers in pastoral concerts. I established most of the components that are in my practice today but disparately in the NYSRP.

What general advise do you have for students attending the NYSRP?  Practice wise?
Go see as much art as possible, concerts, parties, internships, and work as hard as possible. Widen your perspective of culture and generate as much conversation / discourse about your practice in four (4) months. The way you learn in an art educational program is hard work. Work hard to make as many variables to your visual problem as possible. The NYSRP is a focus group to help you find yourself a little faster than you would in your regular art school program.

What was your biggest challenge in moving to NYC to start your career as a professional artist?  Did your previous NYSRP experience help you during this transition?
The NYSRP helped me tremendously, because it forced me to assimilate to New York and it’s various complexities. When I returned I wasn’t as romantic about the prospects of being a New Yorker and the art world. My biggest challenge moving to New York was surviving financially. I had a bad job, and had to really work 24 hours a day to make money and go to the studio. Eventually, I picked up the “artist in residence” lifestyle, which helped me build a body of work that got me gallery representation, and an exhibition schedule.

What was your favorite non-art related memory while attending the NYSRP?
I really enjoyed going to deep house club called Club Shelter every Saturday. It was on Varick Street behind the NYSRP when the building was in Tribeca. Club Shelter would stay open from 11pm until 3PM the next afternoon. I would earn 80 bucks a week by participating as an audience member in a game show called “Kostabi World”, just so I could go to the Shelter and dance for 12 hours.

Do you stay in touch with fellow NYSRP alumni and do you consider this continuing dialogue with your NYSRP community beneficial to your present day experiences?
I haven’t stayed in touch with anyone from my class at the NYSRP, but I do stay in touch with friends who did the program after me.

Hank Willis Thomas was one of my visiting artist during my time there. I remember showing him a lot of provocative ideas that prefaced what I am actually getting ready to do for my next solo show in 2014. A few years later, he actually recommended my work to a few curators. I find it amazing that I met so many great visiting artists during my time at the NYSRP.

Jacolby’s website