Meet the Ole Miss graduate giving a voice to Orlando Pulse victims

Jonathan Kent Adams creates enduring online portraits to honor the Pulse Nightclub tragedy

Mississippi artist Jonathan Kent Adams has created an online series featuring portraits of the Pulse nightclub victims on Instagram and Facebook.

Pulse: A Tribute was created by the 26-year-old to give more information on the victims’ lives.

Whether it’s describing their accomplishments, hobbies, daily life, or how their families and friends describe the individual, viewers can learn over 100 stories of those who were taken too soon or survived the attack.

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Jonathan Kent Adams, known to some as Nathan, graduated from the University of Mississippi where he received his Bachelors of Fine Arts in Painting in 2014. Living and working in Oxford, a small but somewhat accepting town in Mississippi, Jonathan has been an influential member of the LBGT community with creating two strong separate bodies of work about LBGT identity, Sacrosanct and The Gay Lifestyle.

He’s also a participant and spokesperson for the first ever Pride weekend in Oxford, MS.

I was privileged enough to speak to Jonathan about his decision to create the series.

Jonathan said: “I was emotionally compelled almost immediately. I was initially going to do oil paintings of each victim, but I’m poor. So, I decided to do acrylic and ink portraits on watercolor paper. This process was also easy to take with me when I was traveling so I could keep making them.”

 

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“The best thing to me has been the comments from people that know the victims. Also for me – I can relate to so many of their lives. I saw myself in their lives, and that really changed me while I was creating the portraits. It made me not want to grow numb to all the injustice around us.”

A true advocate for the respect and well-being of all people, Jonathan’s other works explore the themes of relationships, emotions, gender, and spirituality. Many of his previous works have the recurring “halo” effect that is also present in the Orlando Pulse series.

“I use the halo mainly to show that minority lives matter, that their lives are holy. I grew up Catholic. I always saw iconography. Those images impacted me, and in a way, I hope to honor the outcasts the way the saints were.”

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Throughout posting the portrayal of the victims Adams has reminded viewers avidly this series is not for his personal validation.

Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, friends called her Mary, was married and had two children.  She was at Pulse with her brother in law, Sabad Borges and their friend Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega. Antonio died trying to protect Mary while Sabad survived. Creating a window into the lives of the people of Pulse, Jonathan also asked viewers to comment more information about the individuals if possible, allowing their memories to continue.

Rather than selling portraits for a claim to fame or publicity, Jonathan encouraged viewers of the series to share his work through social media to open the conversation about love and acceptance. One noteworthy acknowledgment was from Sophia Bush from One Tree Hill.

“I thought that was cool because they received a lot of exposure. But to me what really stuck out was seeing people say they were being healed by seeing the portraits.”

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When asked where his work will transform from here, Jonathan looks to continue exploring social justice in some form. “I am incredibly inspired by all the brokenness being revealed in America right now. I know I will use that to create my next body of work.”

With Jonathan presenting Pulse: A Tribute as a complete series to a greater audience with such grace and endearment, we patiently wait for Jonathan’s next project.

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Ole Miss: University of Mississippi