When JaQuan Hicks graduated from high school in 2018 he had to make a decision about what he wanted to do with his life. He says that he surprised some friends and family when he enrolled in Trident Technical College and chose to major in graphic design.

His reasoning was simple: “I thought about what I’d be happy doing the rest of my life.”

While graphic design is one outlet of Hicks’ creative expression, his art has a life of its own, drawing on inspiration from the schools of abstract and neo-expressionist art.

“Everything I do has an African theme,” says Hicks. “My grandpa is Jamaican and he has a lot of influence on my life. I grew up with American culture, but also with his culture.”

Hicks wants to see a change in Charleston’s art scene — one traditionally cluttered with sunset landscapes and peaceful beach scenes. He mentions another young local artist, Adrian Rivera, whose art he admires and whose style he wants to see more of.

Rivera’s bio reads: “Growing up in Mexico and moving to the U.S. when I was 11 made me open my eyes to see two sides of a socioeconomic and cultural coin.” As Hicks says, Rivera’s work will “take you to a different world.”

In addition to Hicks’ stand-alone works of art (other-worldly in their own right), he also creates clothing out of a desire to wear something that doesn’t look like anyone else’s style. He started cutting up clothes and making collages on his pants and shirts in high school, finding pieces at Goodwill rather than online in mass-produced stores.

You can find Hicks’ clothing on Instagram (@weird_illvisions). His most recent T-shirt design started out as a small painting featuring a man raising his fist next to the word “Black” repeated three times.

Earlier this month, Hicks re-released an earlier T-shirt design featuring the words “hi I’m human,” with 100 percent of the proceeds donated to both the Minnesota Freedom Fund and a Charleston protester fund.

Hicks gets his T-shirts printed at Summerville’s Photographik print, copy and business center and his order sizes vary on the popularity of his shirts (which he notes are growing).

You can find more of Hicks’ art on his personal Instagram account (@goat.hicks). A recent piece depicts what appears to be a hand flicking a head off of a column.

And while the image at first may evoke some of the pain associated with the country’s current reckoning with its own past (namely, a number of Confederate monuments), Hicks hesitates to assign meaning to his work.

“I like people to interpret it as they want,” he says, adding that what happens in the world around him often unconsciously enters his mind and, in turn, his art. “A lot of times when I’m watching stuff, I don’t think it’s affecting me. I don’t notice that my surroundings are affecting what I’m making but if I’m feeling upset or nervous someone may say, ‘This piece looks nerve-racking.'”

Learn more about Hicks’ art online at weirdillusion.com.

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