Interviews

Meet LA’s Art Community: Jaklin Romine Is Flagging LA’s Inaccessible Art Galleries

An interview series spotlighting some of the great work coming out of Los Angeles. Hear directly from artists, curators, and art workers about their current projects and personal quirks.

Portrait of Jaklin Romine (photo by Necahaul Toltecatl)

Welcome to the 23rd installment of the interview series Meet LA’s Art Community. Check out our past interviews here.

This week, I interviewed the artist Jaklin Romine, who has lived in Los Angeles her entire life. Romine’s work hovers between installation, sculpture, and photography; in particular, she’s interested in pushing “photography into the third dimension.” “I am in physical transition,” she writes on her website, “and thus, wanted to create art that hovers within multiple art practices.”

In 2019, Romine received the Rema Hort Foundation Emerging Artist Grant, which helped her complete two projects that were exhibited at PSLA that same year. For the first, Living With Sci, Romine documented the trauma her body has experienced due to paralysis, printing the images on large swaths of fabric and draping them over sculptures so that they became three-dimensional. She used the same technique for the second, ongoing series, in which she photographs the flowers she routinely buys for her grandmother, “mí abuela,” so that they “will last forever.

Romine’s latest project is a performance series, titled ACCESS DENIED, in which she travels to inaccessible art spaces in Los Angeles and documents her “body sitting outside for an entire art opening or closing.” Lately, during quarantine, she has created banners to hang outside most inaccessible art galleries around Los Angeles. Read more about Romine’s projects in the interview below.

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Jaklin Romine, “Access Denied” (image courtesy the artist)

Where were you born?

I was born in Burbank and raised in East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.

How long have you been living in Los Angeles?

I have been living in Los Angeles my entire life but have moved around to different areas of the county and city. When I was first born, I lived in El Sereno on the east side of LA, then, when my parents got divorced, I moved to San Gabriel. Then, when I first moved out on my own, I lived in Echo Park, Alhambra, and Pasadena. Then I got in an accident and lived in Pomona, and the finally back to East LA.

What’s your first memory of seeing art?

When I was in kindergarten my teacher had Ed Emberley drawing books and they encouraged me to check them out so I could learn to draw different figures and forms with my fingerprint. The book asked you to dip your fingers in ink and press them on a paper to make a stamp, then to use the shapes to make characters. I thought it was so cool and I loved looking at all the different steps to create the final drawing. Even though I’m not an illustrator it was still my first connection to art and form.

Do you like to photograph the art you see? If so, what device do you use to photograph?

Well, yes, photography is my first and strongest form of expression. I use my phone, iPhone 8-11, and Sony A7 to shoot my photo series of protest art, ACCESS DENIED, LIVING WITH SCI, and Why bring me flowers when I’m dead? When you had the time to do it when I was alive.

THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY IS REAL — and you don’t always need a fancy camera if you have the eye.

What was your favorite exhibition in Los Angeles this year?

John Ziqiang Wu: Art Making at the Armory Center for the Arts.

We Are Here: Contemporary Art and Asian Voices in Los Angeles at the USC Pacific Asia Museum.

Parallel Realities & Unpopular Truths, curated by Mylo Mu and Storm Ascher, at the Superposition Gallery.

Sister Gaze at Nous Tous.

Rituals: Ezra Benus, Romily Alice Walden, Yo-Yo Lin at the Laurie M. Tisch Gallery.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

Louise Hayes’s Heal Your Body and Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Umoja Noble.

Do you prefer to see art alone or with friends?

I prefer to see art with friends because you can have a dialogue and discussion about what you’re seeing and what you’re looking at and what you feel about it. But it’s also nice to take a really long look by yourself and formulate your own ideas.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on expanding my sculptural ideas to integrate with my fabric photography. Trying to push and pull the two mediums to their bending point. While also creating banners that stand as placeholders for able-bodied people to perform my performance protest art ACCESS DENIED during quarantine. I posted this banner outside most of the inaccessible art galleries and performance spaces around LA. It was also included in an outdoor exhibition put on by Durden and Ray, We Are Here / Here We Are, a Los Angeles County-wide exhibition of nearly 100 artists that explored our innate desire for connectivity through sensation. Due to the constraints of the COVID-19 lockdown, the artists in this exhibition chose public spaces to display their work — from Santa Monica to the East Side and from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach.

What is one accomplishment that you are particularly proud of?

When I first got accepted to the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), I thought it was really exciting, and everybody around me celebrated me even more and thought I was so much cooler because I was going there, which was bullshit. But being able to complete my masters at an institution that I was combating for a year and a half, while trying to get my education, only formed my resilience and the art practice that I have now. Not because of the school, but in spite of them. After I finished my Masters of Fine Art from a very “high-ranking” institution, I submitted the photography that I used to sue Cal Arts Campus for their inaccessibility and won the Rema Hort Foundation Emerging Artist Grant in 2019, and won $10,000 for making art about the inaccessibility at CalArts which everyone told me not to make.

Where do you turn to for inspiration for your projects?

There are two things I am trying to do with my art practice: one, to use the medium of photography with other elements to break the language that exists for the image and to be able to create a different medium. Then, I also use my personal experiences and the different intersections of my identity to make the art that I will create.

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