This profile was published as part of Gandhi’s Be Magazine’s #ProfilesofChangemakers series, uplifting the stories, lives, and work of Changemakers who are being the change they wish to see in the world.
NYC-based artist and activist, Jon Coffelt is a Gandhi’s Be Magazine Artist For Peace.
Described as a highly acclaimed artist, activist, curator, and former gallery owner living in New York, this hardly describes the dynamic character and passion that fuel Jon Coffelt’s art and activism and how those intertwine into a powerful force for arts and social issues.
Jon Coffelt started his career in the fashion industry designing clothing as well as fabric for Willi Smith in the 1980s. His art career took off when he was commissioned to paint over 100 works for the Parisian Department Store chain. In 1991 he was commissioned by Absolut Vodka to kick off its “Absolut Statehood” campaign representing the state of Alabama.From 1993 until 2001 Jon Coffelt and his partner Shawn Boley and their friend Janet Hughes, owned and operated Agnes, a gallery devoted to socially aware photography, short film/video, and artist’s books. In 2001 Jon Coffelt closed the gallery and moved to New York to give his own art undivided attention.
Jon Coffelt is currently known for his “Cosmos” series, “Circuitry” series, and the fabric art series known as “Miniatures” or memory clothing. He is also co-creator of the “One World Wallet” initiative creating duct tape wallets that remind collectors of the power of the wallet and giving back—part of the proceeds from One World Wallet go to Amnesty International. A book collection on “One World Wallet” will be debuting soon.
Over the last several years Jon Coffelt’s work has been shown in Atlanta, Birmingham, Boston, Charleston, Chattanooga, Los Angeles, Kyoto, Miami, Minneapolis, Mobile, Nashville, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, Barcelona, London, Mexico City, Montreal, Tokyo, and Venice.
In 2000, Jon Coffelt’s work was chosen for “House and Garden: Twists on Domesticity,” at Space One Eleven, Birmingham, AL through a grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts. In this exhibition, he hand-sewed more than 250 miniature garments that were exhibited here using original fabrics from clothing surrendered by individuals across the country to produce exact replicas keeping the integrity of these pieces intact with the fabrics, shapes and seams of the garments. He calls these memory sculptures because most of the pieces came from a loved one.
For January/February 2009, “Fiberarts Magazine” featured Jon Coffelt’s “Miniature Clothing Project” in its Creative Process section. Coffelt uses cherished items of clothing to create miniature replica garments. Coffelt describes the miniatures as tiny symbols of people and events, folded in time.
Jon Coffelt says, “My work involves ideas of chaos from order and order from chaos through historical and personal context. Opportunity is imbued the viewer to continue conversations of past, present, and on-going dialogues. I am passionate about ideas that inform.”
Artist Qi Peng interviewed Jon Coffelt for an artist series in the Salt Lake Examiner, he described Jon as someone “who is definitely one of the most versatile artists around New York, has been a good friend to many other artists, including myself. His vibrant and forthright personality has created an energy that has let to all types of artwork ranging from textile art to paintings executed with duct tape, which is a very common household item. As a curator, he has managed to put together various shows that challenge everyday perception and enhance the public’s understanding of new art forms.
Tour the One World Wallet Gallery on Second Life: