Jay Bordeaux’s latest series is bigger than the color that bears its name. “MAGENTA.” represents spiritual harmony, spiritual balance, and universal harmony, and it’s here to help us find clarity.
Jay Bordeaux, a local Richmond artist and creator of Bordeaux Artwork, doesn’t have just one medium. He draws, he paints, and he creates digital artwork. His work can be found on anything from canvasses and t-shirts to murals brightening the streets of Richmond.
Bordeaux became interested in art as a young child because his mother was a preschool teacher, but didn’t consider himself a “professional” artist until he attended Virginia State University. Bordeaux originally went to VSU in hopes of pursuing a degree in business. This didn’t work out for him, as he became terribly bored with the subject. It also didn’t help that this field of study required him to dress in a suit every Wednesday, and as he owned only one suit at the time, this got old quickly.
Not knowing what to do or where to go from there, unhappy with his projected career path, Bordeaux called his mother. She urged him to change his major.
“I called my mom, the same person who got me started [in art],” Bordeaux said. “She said, ‘What about being an art major?’ I had thought nothing about it, as much as [I was] sketching. I would have my sketchbook and do my sketches, but then I’d just go about my way.”
After changing majors, Bordeaux became inspired by Black comic novelist and illustrator John Jennings when he visited VSU showcasing his work. Seeing Jennings and his work sparked a change in Bordeaux, which ignited his passion to become a professional artist.
“I saw his comic book work, and it changed my entire life,” Bordeaux said. “It’s such an amazing feeling, being in a Black school, to see a Black artist come by, with this amazing show that had been around the world. It was a great experience, and it lit my fire.”
With a new passion and extensive skill set, ranging from painting to sculpting, pastels, and more, Bordeaux continued to create. He began showing his art in galleries and shows around Richmond in 2015.
Bordeaux has two “art therapy” series. One is titled Jade ‘16, and the other MAGENTA. The inspiration for both came from love and loss in family relationships.
Jade ’16, which was showcased in a solo gallery exhibit in Richmond, is named after a jade stone that belonged to his late grandmother, and includes a variety of vibrant portraits of people and animals — all with different vibes, but with the central theme of spirituality and healing.
“The jade stone has a healing property,” Bordeaux said. “It gives you good fortune.”
While facing the loss of his grandmother, Bordeaux also received news that his father was diagnosed with leukemia. A year after his father was diagnosed, Bordeaux said he became his father’s caregiver. This was when he drew inspiration for his latest series, MAGENTA. Turning the pain into inspiration, he turned out this project in just three weeks.
Spending time looking after his father in waiting rooms and hospitals from 5:30am to 9pm most days, the neon vibe of MAGENTA. didn’t happen intentionally.
“I had to find something to do, but I only had highlighters in my bag — a couple pink, maybe one blue, one orange, all the way on the verge of being dried out,” Bordeaux said. “I just started drawing these portraits. I printed about 53 while I was initially taking care of my dad — going to check on him, then going back to the lobby to draw.”
Initially, the project revolved around the color pink, because that was the only viable highlighter he had. Bordeaux switched to magenta because one of his friends, fellow Richmond artist Bobby Bacardi, had just released a project revolving around the color pink. He didn’t want to copy his friend’s work.
The color change ended up working in his favor.
“The color magenta represents spiritual harmony, spiritual balance, and universal harmony,” Bordeaux said. “It was exactly what I was trying to gain at that time — clarity — and this was the color that truly represented that. I dove deeper than I did with Jade because magenta became a utopia, a certain Nirvana for me to achieve. I created my work feeling like I was getting closer to achieving my peace.”
The portraits making up MAGENTA. are digital, and done on an iPhone through the app Procreate. Each portrait features someone who inspires Bordeaux. These inspirations range from Michael Jordan and the late Kobe Bryant to Bordeaux’s loved ones, as well as artists who inspire him.
“When you see MAGENTA. 200 years down the line — [like] in school books, when we review artwork like we review Picasso’s color period — you’ll see the people I grew up with,” Bordeaux said. “The people that I looked up to. The people I love. I’m taking them with me. There’s a lot of people in Virginia, but there are [also] a lot that are my friends.”
After two years working on MAGENTA., Bordeaux is still adding to the project. He hasn’t yet showcased his work due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, he said, he hopes that come October he’ll be able to show it in a half-virtual and half-in-person manner. Though the show will be smaller than his Jade ’16 show, which brought in more than 500 people, Bordeaux hopes MAGENTA. will generate energy. He describes the project as “getting to the magnum opus of your life.”
The pandemic has prevented Bordeaux showcasing his latest project, but it has brought him new opportunities, like the chance to illustrate a children’s book by a friend. The book is about what a post-COVID world will look like, and hopes to help children adjust to a world full of unpredictability. It revolves around a child maneuvering through everyday life after a pandemic.
“I would not have even dreamed of being an illustrator before COVID,” Bordeaux said. “It was unexpected, and so amazing.”