East City Interviews: Yvette Crocker

By Sayyah George on October 4, 2012
Image Courtesy of the Artist.

In 2003 Yvette Crocker was working for a prominent law firm in downtown Washington DC. She had recently purchased her first home and wanted original artwork to grace her walls. “I remembered that I could draw” she says and she created a few pieces that she took to the African Art gallery to have framed. The gallery’s owner was taken aback by the amazing paintings and inquired about the artist and the price of the pieces.

She was shocked to discover that Yvette had done them herself and that she had never so much as taken a drawing class. “She encouraged me to keep it up” says Yvette and this was a new birth for Yvette Crocker; afterwards, friends and family  encouraged her to do a show, she obliged and sold fifteen pieces of her own artwork! This gave her the courage to step out on faith and quit her day job in pursuit of a new career as an artist. “I have always been an entrepreneur” Yvette explains, she sold lemonade growing up in her Northwest neighborhood and later hosted costume jewelry shows at her home, she created logos for other entrepreneurs, made T- shirts designs and sold hand bags. The artist admits that she was afraid of taking such a big risk, but believed that she had something special.

Yvette is a self- taught artist. “I never went to any school to learn how to paint; I just read art history books and tried new things. I wanted to work on canvas, but after reading about the Mona Lisa and how it was painted on wood, I thought it was unique and would help me to create an unparalleled style.” Yvette always thinks about her customers when she is packaging her products, she says. “ I didn’t want my customers to leave with one of my pieces then go out and pay a lot of money to frame it ”. She creates her pieces on richly grained panels of wood some as large as 8ft by 4ft. Yvette has her own ideas about art and creativity. She says, “I believe in myself, so I don’t work for anyone else, I am single and I support myself and it’s not always easy, but I feel that there are many creative people out there, but for me a artist is one who lives art and that means living from what your art produces.”

Yvette Crocker. Photo courtesy of the artist.

She goes on to say, “I feel like I proved that I believe in myself when I walked away from my job, I work 10 times harder now than I did working for someone else;  how could I expect  anyone  to believe in me if I had not proven that I believed in myself?, It takes creativity to create art and the universe does the rest” says  Crocker who does whatever it takes to stay afloat, including creating serenity bracelets and beaded necklaces from precious stones and raw diamonds. “I market myself” says Crocker and the fruit of her labor is apparent as Yvette’s jewelry dons the wrists of Michelle Obama to Kanye West. “I am not afraid to reach out to people and sell myself” says the artist , “it goes along with the territory, and it’s what I have to do in order to keep doing what I love to do.”

Yvette makes it clear that it has not been easy living as an artist. She is one of the few artist to have had her own gallery/studio at one time and is proud of  this accomplishment.  “it was a welcome change for me having my own gallery/studio” says Yvette because of the space, I was able to create larger pieces”. When asked if she considered working and sharing the space with other artist as many artist do, she replied, “I am a bit like Georgia O’Keefe in that I absolutely cannot work when there is another human being in my space.

Yvette’s web site, www.yvettecrockerart.com  consists of two galleries of her work which predominately feature  images of women. Yvette grew up admiring strong beautiful, black women and she tries to capture the essence of those women in her work. Her medium of choice is acrylics and pastels on wood panels which creates a plethora of vibrant images of black women with, caramel and chestnut colored skin, full hips, and pouty lips. The women in the images have  flattering anatomy’s  . The round bottoms, curvy hips and small waistlines make me proud to be a woman. The hair she creates in her work  is a testament to the strength of the African American woman and Yvette captures this complex cultural reality in her work in a most flattering and respectful style.

The women in her work  sometimes are endowed with butterflies fluttering in their afro-manes, on the bridges of their noses, or on their round and voluptuous hips.   Their eyes are always closed to reveal long luscious lashes. Her work creates nostalgia for the “Blaxploitation” films of the 60’s and 70’s of which the artist was deeply inspired. Films like “Uptown Saturday Night”, “Shaft” and “Sparkle”  have a special place in the artist’s heart. Her paintings remind me of my aunts, sisters and the girls I observe daily sashaying up and down Good hope road In S.E. Washington D.C. . Her Tsion Rocks bracelets make me feel feminine and beautiful as they sparkle and gleam on my wrists.  I see myself and what I hope to be in her paintings.

I see images of Pam Grier in her role as ” Foxy Brown” when I look at her work and I also see my Mother in the old photos I used to stare at as a child. Images of my Mother sitting as if she was expecting something or someone;  dressed impeccably, as if she were a movie star, her lips clearly painted, although I can’t make out the color (the photos are black and white) her lashes extended beautifully as she lounges at a bar In Harlem where Curtis Mayfield was playing years before I was born. Yvette believes that, “there are no rules in art and fashion, no difference in a painting and creating jewelry; it’s all art and I believe that art should be embraced in every facet of its existence. I love afros, bell bottoms, yellow jump suits, wire beats, I like anything different and to me black women are distinctive, they are soulful, spiritual and complex creatures. I try to capture that essence in my work.”