After two years studying economics at The University of Douala in Cameroon, Jean Michel Dissake felt it wasn’t the path for him. Dissake left the university and journeyed into a sacred forest in Cameroon, where he would then live for the next 10 years.
"(Jean was) learning from nature, interacting with the trees, and the river, and the light, and the animals," said Marriott Sheldon, a friend of Dissake's and fellow North Carolinian artist.
Her and Dissake met in 2017, at an exhibit at the Cameron Gallery and clicked from the start.
“Our philosophies are very aligned, about art and about nature,” Sheldon said.
In the forest, Dissake began creating his art — he had been drawing since the age of 8, but in the forest is where he began to make sculptures. He mixed vines with any material he could find, and he created his first sculptures.
“When I went to the sacred forest, it was like the vine shared vibrations from the small trees to the big trees,” Dissake said.
He felt there was connection between how a forest interacts with itself and how the human body interacts with itself.
“If we travel around the veins and nerves, I think we will arrive to the source humanity where there is not limit, where there is only love and there is only peace,” Dissake said.
Dissake said his specific sculpture style attempts to link technology and nature. In order to achieve this goal, Dissake uses a diverse set of materials which Sheldon said ranged from termite dust to license plates.
This past February, Dissake was awarded a teaching residence at N.C. State University with the Gregg Museum of Art & Design. Dissake took his students to the countryside, where they interacted with the wildlife and nature of the area. After returning, they worked together to incorporate their nature driven experiences into four sculptures for the Gregg Museum.
Sunday, Dec. 1, Dissake will be hosting a workshop with The Scrap Exchange in Durham.
“I will first share my philosophy of art,” Dissake said. “I am using the vine because it, to me, is the symbol of love.”
Dissake hopes to teach people how to choose what materials to use, and how to be in touch with every material. The workshop will be from 2-5 p.m. and a very open-ended event, Dissake said.
“It will be very free and open, because I am a free spirt," Dissake said. “(I want people to) try to get balance between him or her: it will be a therapeutic workshop."
Cole Hoffman, a UNC first-year interested in art, said he is very excited for the event.
“I love Jean’s connection with nature and his style of sculptures seem fresh and exciting,” Hoffman said.
Sheldon said he urges everyone to come to the workshop this weekend.
“It is a very special opportunity to learn about his technique and philosophy that makes his at unique," Sheldon said. "His art is a message for humanity to share love and become unified."