Jones’s own past is evident in her work. Her connection to New York, where she grew up in the 1960s and currently lives, runs deep. Now 57, she was born in the East Village to former New Jersey poet-laureate Amiri Baraka and author Hettie Jones. Originally, Jones gravitated towards a career in diplomacy. (One reason: She thought “artists are always broke, I can’t do that.”) But she eventually embraced the pull of more creative pursuits instilled in her from an early age. “I grew up around a lot of artists, dancers, and musicians,” said Jones, who went to what is now known as Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. Her friend and classmate
received a genius grant in 2007. “I’m excited that we now share that, coming from a public high school in New York.”
Today, she is working on a forthcoming book about similar variants of conceptual art that occurred in geographically disparate places in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. The work is to be titled ‘Art is an Excuse,’ Conceptual Strategies 1968–1983, and comes after her widely-praised 2011 book EyeMinded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art. As part of her research fellowship at Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies, Jones has broadened her lens to examine other groups excluded from the art-historical canon, including Latino artists.
The projects Jones will create with the genius grant will take shape over the coming months. But generally, the award is “just making me think bigger and take more risks.” Jones said. She’s going to emphasize collaboration, with whatever she does geared towards reaching and dialoguing with others, particularly younger scholars. Building off a career she’s loved, “I just want to even have more fun, and this is going to allow this to happen,” she said.