Meet Danielle De Jesus, a New York-based multi-media artist and community storyteller. 

In this Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight, De Jesus shares how her time at Yale allowed her to explore her cultural identity and expand on her artistic passions.

This feature is part of a series focused on amplifying the voices of alumni who are making an impact today and illuminating how the identities we bring to Yale transform both our community and the world. 

What is your most enduring memory of your time at Yale?

I would have to say that it was a studio visit I had with Robert Storr who would later go on to become a great mentor and friend to me. At the School of Art, specifically the painting department, they encourage us to experiment extensively with different materials and concepts outside of the traditional idea of painting. It was fun and enlightening, but at one point I found myself feeling more lost in my practice than I've ever felt. I remember being super nervous about my studio visit with Rob Storr because I had valued his critique so much. He sat in my studio quietly for the first few moments as I stood there nervously anticipating his response to my work. He finally broke silence, walked over to one of my paintings, stood in front of it and said "This. This is why you are here. You are a painter. This stuff, all of these other experiments, you've done them, now let them go and do what you came here to do, you're meant to paint." It was everything that I needed to reassure me that I was in fact not lost and that I was exactly where I needed to be, doing exactly what I came to the Yale School of Art to do.

How has your identity shaped your Yale experience?

Danielle De Jesus ’21 MFA and friendsMy identity actually enhanced my Yale experience. I am a Nuyorican artist. I was born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn to Puerto Rican parents and raised by a single mom. That gave me a perspective that I felt was unique because I was able to come into this institution with a motive much larger than just getting a degree from an Ivy League University. My mission was to show the Yale community that people who come from where I come from also belong and deserve to be there. It's easy to enter a place like Yale and suffer from crippling imposter syndrome when you're from a different socio economic and cultural background, but I didn't let that hinder my ability to learn and grow at Yale. I instead let it propel me to do the best that I can and show others who come from places like Bushwick, that anything is possible if you work hard enough for it.

What is your hope for the future of the Yale alumni community?

My hope is that the Yale alumni community would continue to grow in diversity. That opportunities will come for people like me, who never in their wildest dreams would have imagined being given the chance to learn and grow at an institution such as Yale.

What advice would you give to fellow or future Yalies? 

My advice would be the same advice that was given to me when I began my time at Yale. Find your tribe and build on that. I made lifelong friendships during my time at Yale, and I am eternally grateful for that. Also, if there is a person or professor that you really appreciate, try to keep in contact with them even after you've graduated. Good mentors are really important and give you someone you can look up to and get advice from throughout your journey. Lastly, consider how you can inspire and motivate others to follow their dreams. Lead by example.

Danielle De Jesus is a Nuyorican painter and photographer born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn, whose works tell the story of growing up in New York City amidst gentrification and displacement. She draws from her experience growing up in the diaspora as a native of Bushwick, New York to document her home neighborhood while creating narratives that uplift the lives and stories of the multi diverse residents she grew up with. De Jesus’ background is in photography, and she utilizes her images of the people native to Bushwick as a reference to tell the story of Bushwick’s displaced residents, informed by her personal experiences with gentrification and displacement. Danielle De Jesus’ images makes us rethink the significance of the image and the politics of representation involving the largely low-income people of color depicted in her paintings. Her work pushes us to think critically about the larger economies of urban America, but also about matters of intimacy and the interior lives of local residents. Ultimately, her works make viewers think about the effects of capitalism, and the urban settler colonial histories impacting Puerto Rican diaspora communities in Brooklyn, Puerto Rico and beyond. Danielle works in painting, photography and uses multimedia objects such as dollar bills and common household items such as tablecloths to create texture stories of everyday life and resilience.

Danielle received a BFA from F.I.T in 2019 and an MFA from Yale School of Art in 2021. Her work has been exhibited at MoMA PS.1, the Akron Museum in Akron Ohio, and most recently, Francois Ghebaly in Los Angeles CA, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. She's part of the Whitney Museum's breakthrough exhibition "no existe un mundo poshuracán: Puerto Rican Art in the Wake of Hurricane Maria." De Jesus is part of the permanent collection at the Perez Art Museum of Miami.

You May Also Be Interested In