Local artist mixes cultures, painting new pictures for the Boot
For those who have ventured outside the country, it is a rite of passage to discover that somewhere in the midst of the journey—between the language barriers, cultural differences, and kindness of strangers—that they will be returning home with much more than inked stamps on a passport and a beat-up backpack. They will arrive at the terminal carrying new perspectives, timeless memories, humbling appreciation, and perhaps a few stray bargained-for souvenirs. This transformative experience was not lost on local artist, Jacob Zumo, who has spent the last year living in Italy, studying painting and perfecting his craft under the mentorship of masters in oil painting.
A Baton Rouge native, Zumo grew up with a passion for two things, basketball and art, each having parallel and major influences on his life. In college, Zumo opted to play basketball on an athletic scholarship to Belhaven University until an injury stood in his way. It is often in times of struggle that opportunities present themselves and Zumo fell back on his former passion, throwing himself into painting.
With the help of a partnership with Casey Evans of Free Agents Marketing, and a little bit of luck, Zumo began painting music artists during live shows, cementing his role as a sought-after artist in the music industry. This early success catapulted Jacob into the limelight, and through this national recognition he learned to bet on himself and his abilities.
Fast-forward a few years, Zumo decided to set his sights on an even loftier goal, a prestigious Catholic art school program in Florence, Italy, where he would live and study at for the next two years. Internally plagued by simple questions with complex answers, “How do I modernize sacred art without it being typical? How do I create a beautiful painting,” Zumo saw this time of study as a chance to hone his skillset and delve deeper into his natural talent.
“That’s why I went to this school, to be better,” he reveals.
Here Zumo learned from expert instructors, studying in-depth theology, anatomy of the body and variant forms of art, specializing in oil painting.
“You go from drawing, then to sculpture, and oil painting is the third level,” explains Zumo, on the progression of his art. When reflecting on his move overseas, Zumo paints a picture of both the adventure of relocating to a foreign country, and also the inescapable struggles that accompany it. “The theme of my trip was humility. Everything you do, it has that extra little hardship. It was about humility and being humble.”
However, Zumo did have an opportunity to return home to the Capital City briefly in early March to collaborate on another unique project downtown at the Indigo Building through the OnStar Gives Back program. Zumo partnered with Louisiana artist, Brandon Odums (B Mike), on a piece to move the masses. The two created a mural with a needed message, painting the town with unity and togetherness, and paying tribute to New Orleans and Baton Rouge residents working together as one community during devastating past flooding events.
In the wake of the passing of his grandfather, another talented artist who influenced his path, Zumo is settling into stateside living once again and enjoying spending time with his family. He is contemplating how he will mix artistic styles in his upcoming work, bridging the gap between modern art and spirituality.
“The schooling gave an appreciation on realism and the figure. I kind of push the envelope by modernizing it. Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, all of that was sacred art, but the more modern we have gotten, the more secular it’s become,” he explains.
With so many definitions of beauty available and the pressures to conform to a certain image bravely being reevaluated in today’s society, Zumo has come to the conclusion that true beauty lies in realism and in honesty.
“I think our culture has to push back to the roots. True beauty is the real figure,” he expresses.
Currently Zumo is working in the studio, run by Stephen Wilson, a prominent stained glass artist who rents out spaces to local creatives. He has several big projects in the works, most notably paintings for the LSU basketball team, including a piece to honor the life of fallen teammate, Wayde Sims.
Zumo can be contacted at ArtbyJZumo.com for any questions or art sales. Although the precise direction of his future remains unseen, Zumo is certain that his art will be expanding, making room for important conversations about beauty, about authenticity, and about love.
Photos by Sean Gasser