Local artist creates George Floyd memorial artwork

Mike Milbrandt
Jammie Niemeyer and her George Floyd memorial artwork, which will be on display at Java River during the month of August.

The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police sparked nationwide outrage and protests and shined yet another spotlight on America’s troubled history of racism. One local woman has focused her artistic talents to memorialize and bring awareness to this tragic incident in the hopes of educating others about the injustices that continue to be faced by the Black community.

Jammie Niemeyer, 40, of Maynard, is a local artist known for her black ink on white canvas “doodle drawings,” and she recently completed a memorial piece for George Floyd. She said: “Debra Lee Fader of the Cultural Diversity Council approached me about doing a George Floyd project. We talked about it because I had recently completed some Black Lives Matter pieces and posted them on Facebook.”

After speaking with Fader about the Cultural Diversity Council, Niemeyer decided to accept their commission. “I was kind of in that mindset when everything began happening after George Floyd’s murder,” she said. “I felt it was something I needed to bring out and show people.”

The creation of art is a process, and Niemeyer began her process by creating a silhouette of George Floyd. “That got me thinking about various Black leaders and activists; people who were influential throughout the years in the struggle for equal rights for Black people,” she said.

Niemeyer was able to draw on her own experiences as a half-white/half-black woman in southwestern Minnesota while contemplating the creation of the George Floyd piece. She said: “I’ve experienced a lot of injustice in my life. I moved to Granite Falls in 1989, and I was the only Black person in town. My entire family is white; my biological father is black, but I do not know him. My biological mother, who I grew up with, is white.”

Niemeyer is hopeful that her George Floyd piece will give insight and a sense of meaning to all who see it. “I feel like this piece is something to let shine. I hope that it will bring some knowledge and understanding as to what it is really like with Black culture,” she said. “It’s one of those pieces which is really important because we know who George Floyd was and what happened to him.”

In addition to the central image of George Floyd, the canvas features four people who figured prominently in the history of Civil Rights. “I strongly feel, that for me, the four people I chose were really representative what Black culture is, what needed to be done, and who did the things that were needed to be done.”

Niemeyer’s choices included Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Abraham Lincoln.

“Harriet Tubman was an inspiring woman who was amazing in everything she did. There is also Martin Luther King, Jr. who was the main face of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Rosa Parks is also included for making such a powerful statement on racial issues at such an important time.

“The fourth person I included, which could be controversial, is Abraham Lincoln. If it wasn’t for the fact that he freed the slaves, if it weren’t for the fact that he started the entire movement by which we now have our freedom, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” said Niemeyer.

In addition to the five silhouettes of Niemeyer’s doodle drawing, there are other things to read “between the lines.” She said: “Inside the piece are the names of activists and other people who died at the hands of police officers. I think there are over 40 different names written throughout the piece.”

Doodle drawings are not the only art medium she dabbles in, and a recent exhibition in Granite Falls showcased her other talents. Niemeyer said: “For the past month I’ve had an exhibition in Granite Falls. In addition to doodle art, I also do drawings and paintings. It doesn’t matter what type of surface it is; I love to paint and I love to draw.”

Niemeyer also loves to paint murals. “I have a piece behind the K.K. Berge building in Granite Falls. It’s a big doodle butterfly!” she said.

She also continues to branch out in other directions. “I recently completed a poster for a musician, Brian Laidlaw, who will be performing at the Blue Nose Gopher in Granite Falls on August 4,” said Niemeyer.

Niemeyer likes to stay busy, and between her artistic endeavors and her mental health advocacy, she manages to stay very busy. “Keeping busy keeps your brain going! A huge part of my life is that I am a mental health advocate. It’s very important for me that people understand that art is very beneficial for mental health. Actually, it is essential. You’d be amazed at how much stress can be relieved by doing art!” said Niemeyer.

An artist needs a place to work, but Niemeyer doesn’t have a dedicated studio. She said: “I work out of my house; pretty much all of my work is done there. I do volunteer at the art gallery at Granite Falls and every once in awhile I get a chance to bring my work there an paint while I am volunteering.”

Beginning this Saturday, August 1, Niemeyer will have her artwork on display at Java River in downtown Montevideo. She will be displaying various types of artwork. “What I have planned is, there are three walls at Java River that I can utilize. One wall will feature all of the George Floyd pieces, as well as some pieces that feature the Black Lives Matter fist,” she said. “Another wall will feature a number of silhouettes and doodle drawings of rockstars. The other wall will feature mental health pieces.”

Nearly all of the artwork on display at Java River will be for sale, although none of the George Floyd pieces are for sale.

“Those belong to the Cultural Diversity Council,” Niemeyer said.

Niemeyer also takes custom orders for her work. “People can order anything they want from me!” she laughed. Niemeyer is excited to display her George Floyd piece at Java River. “This is a big stepping stone for me,” she said. “I don’t usually do anything that puts a big statement on things. I think it is important and that it is time for people to become aware of what really has happened, and what is still happening.”

Niemeyer’s artwork will be on display at Java River through the month of August. An open house will be held, but a date has yet to be announced.