B.J. Jones has devoted his life to creating art.
But his passion to do so nearly ended, as the Mitchell native faced an obstacle that profoundly changed his life and artistic process forever.
On May 4, 2003, a car crash in Phoenix, Arizona left Jones with a severe and traumatic brain injury, along with restricting his ability to use his dominant right hand. Following the crash, Jones was in coma for about four months but awoke at a Sioux Falls hospital, where he spent most of his time rehabilitating with his family and friends.
"The accident was not part of the plan," Jones said in an email. "I had a new challenge that was extremely difficult, and art became very foreign to me all of the sudden."
As a former Mitchell High School wrestling standout who set a school record of 86 consecutive wins, as well as being a two-time state champion in 1995 and 1996, Jones was no stranger to challenges.
He credits wrestling for teaching him the value to never give up, no matter how tough the task ahead may be. Staring down new challenges post car crash, Jones would put the values wrestling taught him to the test in his road to recovery.
"Wrestling gave me the drive to succeed and taught me to never stop trying, no matter how rough it might get," he said.
Upon graduating from MHS in 1997, Jones' success on the mat earned him an athletic scholarship to wrestle for South Dakota State University.
During his freshman year at SDSU, Jones' passion for developing as an artist kept burning in his heart, which led to his decision of taking a year off to focus on art.
"I had great coaches at SDSU and met some great athletes, too, but I needed to focus on creating more art, so I quit and ended up going back to school for art in Arizona," he said.
Adjusting to new art style
Honing in on his artistic process was exactly what Jones planned to do during his time in Arizona, where he began expanding his realism artistic style.
Following the car crash, Jones was forced to learn how to paint with his left hand, which led him to adopting a completely new style: abstract impressionism.
"A lot of my new abstract art uses the visual language of shape, especially circles, form, color and lines to create a composition, which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world," Jones said of his art style.
Given his newfound style of abstract art, it should come as no surprise that Jones is greatly influenced by Jackson Pollock, a prominent artist during the 1940s, who was a central figure in defining the abstract impressionism style, which is a unique art form through the use of shape and color, unlike figurative art and realism.
"I feel like I'm a better artist now than I was before my accident," Jones said. "Having to adapt gave way to a newfound direction and artistic vision."
The challenges Jones faced recovering from the car crash were no match to his passion for art. Jones says his recovery wouldn't have been possible without support from two ladies that mean a lot to him, his mom and girlfriend.
Sue Jones, B.J.'s mother, moved to Arizona after the car crash, where she resides today and helps B.J.
"We go to the gym once a week, and I walk with him and bond in the process," Sue Jones said. "He is a true warrior, and art has been such a blessing for B.J."
Jones is not paralyzed, but the brain trauma caused by the car crash has made it difficult for him to balance on his own, which is why Jones is in a wheelchair and needs assistance walking.
Jones' girlfriend Gloria Neavez is a fellow artist that he says has always been there for him through his journey as an artist. Along with being influenced by abstract legendary artists like Pollock and Jean-Michel Basquiat, an iconic New York City street artist, Jones said his girlfriend's art has always inspired him.
"My girlfriend has been a big influence in my art and life. She has watched me grow the past 10 years," Jones said.
While his journey to recovery has been what Jones calls one of his greatest challenges yet, he says it's been a rewarding experience that has shaped a new perspective on his life.
After the crash, he launched his website jjbonesink.com, where a plethora of his abstract artistic masterpieces fill the pages. On his website, Jones sells canvas prints of his paintings ranging in sizes from 5 x 7 inches to 16 x 20.
Scrolling past each painting, Jones' expression of raw emotion pours out through each piece.
"I transform my thoughts into a piece of art," he said.
Despite not having the ability to speak as fluently as he did prior to the crash, Jones recently felt a calling to embark upon a new journey as a stand-up comedian. He's only performed twice but plans to continue telling jokes on stage.
"I was nervous at first, but I really enjoy writing jokes and performing on stage," Jones said.
It's an understatement to say art has been a catalyst for Jones' efforts to overcome life obstacles; he has proven nothing can get in the way of pursuing his passion as an artist, not even a car crash that nearly ended his life.
"I'm an artist, and I'll always be an artist," Jones said. "I keep on trying to improve, and if there's a will, there's a way."