We had the good fortune of connecting with Jesse Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jesse, what inspires you?
I was struggling a bit with this question for the past year. My whole life, dance has been front and center. I constructed my identity around it, my ego around it, and my relationships around it. I figured during a moment where I was gifted what seemed like endless time, I would find solace there. However, I didn’t really feel like dancing. I typically used it as a method of expression, of release, and it became a space that I didn’t feel comfortable in. I realized that by devoting my whole self to dance, that I limited my whole self. So over the past year, I’ve been seeking, expanding, growing, shifting, changing, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing; I was enjoying the full breadth of my complexities. I found inspiration in this process. I was inspired by watercolors, and live instagram sets by my favorite artists and DJ’s. I found it in my cooking, and my three hour long FaceTime calls with my friends and family. I was inspired by my bike rides around my neighborhoods and my daily trip to the parking garage behind the Cinemark. I found it in learning how to longboard and figuring out Photoshop. I got it from consistency and discipline, from self-work and self-help books. I’m inspired by the mundane, yet ever complex existence. Our unlimited capacity for exploration, play, and knowledge. There is where I found it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m struggling to say what sets me apart, because what I want to do the most is connect with others through my art. So I’ll just say that I don’t really know what my brand is, or what makes me special, and instead am interested in what makes me similar to others. However, what I am most excited about is being confident enough in saying who I am SO that others can relate to me. I feel as though the greatest journey in my artistry has been finding my voice, because it gives me an opportunity to create something that is me and mine. To get there in this industry is not easy, since you’re told you need to “play the game” and work under others in order to get to the place where you can make your own stuff. I subscribed to that belief for a long time, and I feel as if I’m finally realizing that while that may be the way to “make it”, it’s not really the point of why I started this in the first place. Creation doesn’t happen at a specified time in the future, it’s happening constantly, every second of every day. We are constantly creating ourselves, so to say that art can only be made when I have “made it” seems… wack. The “challenges” are that I might not get recognized for my creations; the challenge is ego, wealth, and fame. So I guess the lessons that I’ve learned are to really evaluate why I do what I do in the first place. Do I choose this life to stroke my ego, to gain the wealth and the fame? Or do I do it because it’s just always made the most sense to, to express this way, to create this way, to connect to others in this way? I want the world to know that–that the “why” is the most important, and that you should start there. We can all connect to something when the intention is the strongest, and since that is what I care about most, connecting to others, then that’s what I want my art to be.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love food, so I’d probably just eat my way through the city. Some of my favorites are in no particular order: Gokoku Vegetarian Ramen Shop, Sage Vegan, Assam Indian Food, Xochitl Vegan, Sun Cafe, Philz Coffee, and Simply Coffee. Then, when we need to digest, I would take them for a drive along Mullholand Drive, maybe stop at Tree People, and then go skate along the beach at Santa Monica. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
While it’s been the time for self, and “grand realizations and awakenings”, I can’t help by think about the people that taught me by showing. I’m part of a crew, SyntheSoul, a House dance collective based in Los Angeles and Sacramento. It’s three of us: me, G’bari Gilliam, and Alex Almaraz. In finding my inspiration in the complexities of myself and my experience, I also found it in theirs, and am endlessly grateful in the time, compassion, and love they lead with and give others. These two live FULLY, and most importantly try their hardest, which gives me the motivation to do the same. At the end of the day, that’s all we can do, right? I also want to shoutout my family, for not always knowing how to be there, but shows up all the same, unconditionally and earnestly. My roommates for fostering not just a house, but a home, and for movie night and home-cooked meals. Shout-out to my scooby, Haylie Harwood, for being a guide and a comedian, one who pats my back, and makes my belly ache from laughing. I want to shoutout my partner, Cristian Barreto, for showing up regardless, and showing me where hard work can take you.