Contemporary Houston-based artists share 5 things they love


Houston delivers the perfect balance of cosmopolitanism and comfort, a dynamic that makes it possible to perpetuate the life of a creative professional. Whether born, raised, or just based in the city, artists have the opportunity to use their work to connect, explore, and work towards more inclusive spaces within and beyond the art scene. To shine a light on some of the city’s most accomplished visual artists, Houstonia asked JooYoung Choi, Jamal Cyrus, and Emily Peacock to share five of the things they love.

While Choi’s imaginative works challenge us to dream, Peacock plays with the beauty of everyday life, and Cyrus merges fantasy and reality with American history. What inspires these artists to create?

JooYoung Choi

Raised in Concord, New Hampshire by adoption, JooYoung Choi is a multidisciplinary artist and global builder. As a young child yearning to be connected to her roots, Choi turned to storytelling in shows and films like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Sesame Street ‘s Follow this bird and AND the alien. Galvanized by a burning desire to reunite with her birth parents, she used her art to process feelings of alienation, hoping to manifest her family reunion. Through painting, sculpture, puppetry, video and installations, Choi explores the mythology of his fictional country, the Cosmic Womb. As conceived by Choi, the Cosmic Womb is as autobiographical as it is imaginative, featuring intricately designed characters who recur in his two- and three-dimensional work.

Five things JooYoung Choi likes:

  1. The world according to Mister Rogers: Important things to remember from Fred Rogers: “This book is really radical and inspiring.”
  2. Who Trapped Roger Rabbit (1988): “This film continues to grow with me, I refer to it a lot when I do special effects in my video work. There is a lot of puppetry and problem solving within it. It is also a criticism of gentrification.

  3. GWAR: “Their music brings me so much joy. There is something magical about a heavy metal rock band that also wants to be a puppet show at the same time.

  4. Trenton Doyle Hancock: “He’s my husband, my best friend and such an inspiration. To have someone with whom to share things and share ideas, show and tell every day in our house. It is a beautiful gift.

  5. KymLe Bahn: “KymLe is also a huge inspiration and definitely one of my great heroes. She is a nurse who is a role model on how it is possible to devote time to art even if it is not your job. full time, and how you can heal yourself and others with it.

Jamal Cyrus

Jamal Cyrus works through sculpture, assembly and performance. Inspired by material histories and the liberating power of black music, Cyrus investigates the successes and failures of black political movements in the 1960s and 1970s, as a continuing form of self-education. His concept art practice uses objects such as quilts and FBI files written to trace how American history is documented. As an extension of a project that used vinyl records, Cyrus created a fictional record label called Pride records which was founded in Detroit in the 1970s and produces conscious music to organize and politicize urban youth. In its design, the label was targeted by the US government, which caused the eventual dilution of its revolutionary goals. Cyrus tells this story through a series of drawings, collages and installations.

Five things Jamal Cyrus likes:

  1. KTSU, circa 1993: “Houston radio in the 90s was weirder and much more diverse.”
  2. Third quarter: “The Third Ward neighborhood includes the two schools that were key to my education (Texas Southern University and University of Houston).”

  3. Ménil collection: “The way the Menil collects different time periods and geographies, depending on someone’s interests and tastes, what I saw in this museum fueled my artistic influences.”

  4. Blues People by LeRoi Jones: “I think he was doing something that people understand and I listened to him on an audiobook.”

  5. Concrete block: “I started noticing them as gentrification accelerated in the Third Quarter, and they became, for me, a symbol of displacement and loss. This is made worse by the general occurrence of this type of erasure in our city. “


Emily peacock

From grief to motherhood and mental health, Emily Peacock uses humor to navigate the complexities of life. His vividly colored images often feature textured backgrounds and highlight everyday objects, like a single Dorito and his son’s fruit bowls. For more than a decade, members of his family have been the subjects and contributors to his work. Both an artist and a full-time educator, Peacock is influenced by the alternative image-making processes she teaches her students. His most recent work die of laughter addresses the severe isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic directly and translates personal experiences into an effort to de-stigmatize mental health issues.

Five things Emily Peacock likes:

  1. Kudzu: “I love nature in Houston, things are so green and lush.”

  2. APARTMENTS FILM LABORATORY: “It’s nice to have a lab in town, I can buy films, process photos and love supporting them. “

  3. Lord Huron: “They make very dark and mysterious sounds and it sounds like the perfect soundtrack to do my job.”

  4. Dave Chapelle: “If he founded a religion, I would join it. I think he is the philosopher of our generation.

  5. Speed ​​bumps : “I would have lost my mind (again) if I hadn’t had coffees. I like to bounce around different places in the city.


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