The art of representation

  • Published
  • 36 Wing Public Affairs

An artist, a black woman and a member of the United States Air Force are identities that represent unique communities, cultures and values. Few juggle more than one; however, Senior Airman Jasmine Barnes is proud to juggle all three.

“To have my work be represented and to be a woman in the military is a huge opportunity,” said Barnes.

What started as a means to keep busy during quarantine evolved into a passionate hobby and business. Creativity has followed Barnes from when she was a kid exploring embroidery, cross stitch and jewelry-making. To this day, she is still creating, all while serving in the Air Force as a public affairs journeyman. If she isn’t taking pictures on the flight line, she can be found in her living room, tufting gun in hand, in front of a piece of monk’s cloth hitched onto an aluminum frame.  

Barnes has been making rugs for roughly two years with no plans of stopping. This is thanks to her supportive friends who motivated her to elevate as an artist. In the last three months, she has been learning new methods and experimenting with different materials to help cut the time, cost, and resources it takes to make her rugs. This experience has shown her the correlation between her hobby and her career.

“It’s been a learning experience, but each time I get better and better,” said Barnes. “Making rugs is a huge detail game. One small, missed detail could mean you have to start over or you can’t complete that rug. It could cost you materials, money, resources and the same thing goes with the Air Force if you don’t pay attention to the details.”

Barnes explained how, in her career field, not charging your camera or forgetting your SD card costs you the whole photoshoot. Paying attention to details at home and at work is how she completes both missions. 

In addition to paying attention to details, Barnes draws upon inspiration from not only her father, who is an Air Force veteran, but also the black community, to become both a better Airman and artist. 

“A lot of the opportunities he didn’t have back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, I have now,” said Barnes. “The Air Force has come a long way. We’re more diverse and able to celebrate these things.”

With Black History Month approaching, Barnes sees it as a time to celebrate and highlight her culture.

“I like to look at what others have done before me. A lot of inventions and things that we use today, came from a black person,” explained Barnes. “Even a lot of art that I like to look at, listen to, participate in, does come from the black community.”

Participating in her art of making rugs is Barnes’ way to decompress from the mission that she completes every day as an Airman. Thus, Barnes says it is imperative that Airmen continue to get highlighted for their accomplishments and hobbies that make them unique.

Barnes encourages others to share her hobby, describing the euphoria she gets when she flips over a completed rug for the first time.

“Seeing the final product is like, ‘Wow, I took this piece of cloth and turned it into a reflection of me and the person I’m making it for.’ It’s that moment that I get to connect with other people through my art.”

Being an artist, a black woman, and a member of the U.S. Air Force can each feel isolating on their own since they are considered minority groups in today’s society. Barnes challenges that narrative every day, using the combined identities to connect with others through her art, culture and career. The work she produces at home and in the office represents something deeper; it represents Senior Airman Jasmine Barnes.