Art of Roxanne Jackson : Transgressing the Boundaries

Roxanne Jackson is a sculptor and ceramic artist from New York. The prominent theme of her works is extinction, death and transformation therefore it is eerily dramatic and macabre. It is the exploration of darker aspects of our existence combined with nature’s processes of decay, transformation, and regeneration. Some of her works depict evolution both at physical and psychological levels, where our interpretation of the given piece rests on our understanding of art and our insight. In her words, “these images ride the boundaries between animal and human, instinct and reason, the conscious and the subconscious”, is the best possible explanation about her art from the artist herself. Roxanne’s work has been broadly exhibited internationally at renowned museums, galleries, art centers and workshops.

Jackson_Blonde-Ambition_1Please tell us a bit about yourself, Roxanne:

I was born in California, USA but, I live in New York now. I received an MFA in ceramics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

I am an artist and an Assistant Professor of art at the State University of New York in Oswego, NY. I like to work in my studio and participate in artists residencies.

Jackson_Blonde-Ambition_2Tell us about your relationship with art:

I used to color and draw at a very young age- 3 or 4 years old. My dad used to draw pictures for me that I would color in. He was always making things art related so, I was around that as a child. In these early years, I knew I wanted to be an artist.

For many years I worked as a river guide and had earned an undergraduate degree in botany–which made sense with my lifestyle of being akin to a naturalist. However, I knew that art was the real pursuit for me in my life so, after river guiding during the summer months and being a snowboarding instructor during the winter season, I finally made the leap to graduate school where my dedicated pursuit of being an artist began.

Jackson_Death-ValleyWhat kind of artwork are you creating nowadays?

Trained as a ceramicist, I have been creating relevant sculpture with other ‘crafty’ materials—including Papier Mâché, marbled paper and yarn. Furthering my exploration with these materials, I will create life-sized works inspired by retro beasts, such as Mermaids and Cyclops, and appropriate them with imagery found in modern-day subcultures. For example, my sculpture Harpy, draws from Black Metal, the subgenre of extreme metal music, and Neoshamanism. In this vein, my new work will also draw from modern-day “mythology” such as Pokemon, Teletubbies and Darth Vader. Concurrently referencing retro, obsolete monsters, while drawing from current trends, will allow me to rejuvenate crafty, figurative sculpture. This provocative work will juxtapose the old and the new, the real and the fabled, the kitsch and the grotesque, the harrowing and the sublime.

Jackson_Dont-Stop-BelievinBesides ceramics what other mediums do you use in art?

I will always love ceramics- I love sculpting with clay, the process of firing the work and the limitless possibilities with glaze. I am also recently excited about working with Papier-Mache.

How do you create your art pieces and how much time does it take?

I work very intuitively–I start with an idea of the piece I’m going to make but, it evolves quite a lot during the process of building.

The amount of time it takes to create a piece depends on a lot of different variables—the media, the scale, etc. I have just built a life sized figure of a Mermaid, from chicken wire and Papier-Mache and, it took two weeks of several hours working–it is close to being finished.

Jackson_Midnight-Lace_1Most of your artwork exhibits deformation and decay. Tell us how people react to your work and how do you critically appreciate and evaluate their reaction?

‘Occasionally I appropriate imagery from horror films, particularly the moment of transformation when a human becomes a beast. This transgressive imagery creates irony and tension in the work, especially when produced from the medium of clay—with its strong historical ties to comfort and beauty. Rooted in traditions of pantheism and superstition, the horror movie depicts a dark side of human nature. Mutated creatures are created in the murky depths of our collective subconscious. These images ride the boundaries between animal and human, instinct and reason, the conscious and the subconscious. ‘

Sometimes people think my work is ‘too scary’ and, that is okay with me. I do not feel it is necessary that everyone like my work. However, I find that many people appreciate my work and can see the beauty in the pieces. Also, I believe the dark elements in my sculpture are balanced with humor-even a black humor and this layer of absurdity and /or ridiculousness provides levity to subjects that are visually and conceptually challenging.

Jackson_Midnight-Lace_2Is there any theme that you would you like to exploit in your art?

A current theme I am exploiting is kitsch. Certain pieces, such as Midnight Lace draws from ceramic (and plastic) swan planters. The piece, Sexy Beast, is my take on a ‘teapot’ and candelabra form (even though it does not function as a teapot).

Is there something that challenges you as an artist?

I think the biggest challenge for most artists is to balance work (jobs) with art-making. Finding adequate time for the studio can be a huge challenge. Thankfully, I am an Artist in resident right now at a place called The Wassaic Project, located in Wassaic, New York. This residency is allowing me to nurture my studio practice.

Jackson_Money-To-Burn_1What do you think about your style?

My art is influenced by several things: nature, Pop and sub-culture, mythology, horror films, the history of craft, kitsch, music and several other things. I think allowing myself the freedom to explore several areas, simultaneously, has helped me make work that is somewhat original.

Jackson_Money-to-Burn_2What equipment and material do you mostly use?

If I’m working with clay, I use mainly ceramic tools and kilns. When I’m working with Papier-Mache, I use wire, wire cutters, glue and other basic tools such as scissors. I would say that I do not use any exceptionally fancy equipment–mainly basic tools.

Jackson_MotorbreathWhat have been your achievements? Your clients?

My work has been broadly exhibited at venues including Socrates Sculpture Park, Lu Magnus, Airplane Gallery, Radiator Gallery and Hunter College in New York, the Mutter Museum of Philadelphia, Dubhe Carreno Gallery in Chicago, the Seattle Design Center, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Gallery Homeland of Portland, Oregon, among others. I have also shown in China, Portugal, Romania and Canada and cities including London, Berlin and Leipzig. My work has been widely reviewed in periodicals including Eyes Towards the Dove, The L Magazine, Beautiful Decay, O.K. Periodicals, the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Star Tribune, Ceramics Monthly, Ceramics Ireland and many others. I have been a resident artist at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, the Ceramic Center of Berlin, the Pottery Workshop in China and Wassaic in New York. I’ve also been the recipient of several grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Jerome Foundation, the Kansas City Artists Coalition, the Oregon Arts Commission, the National Council on the Education for the Ceramic Arts, the Regional Arts & Culture Council and more.

Jackson_Sexy-Beast_1What are your views on contemporary art?

The realm of contemporary art is too broad a topic for me to comment on with any type of general statement.

What are your future plans and ambitions?

I have my work in two museum exhibitions this fall- one in New York and the other in New Jersey- these should be strong shows. The exhibition, The Right Amount of Wrong is in New York is at the ISE Cultural Foundation and A Clay Bestiary will show at the Hunterdon Museum in Clinton, New Jersey.

Jackson_Sexy-Beast_2All images © Roxanne Jackson : Website

About Nishant Mishra

Nishant studied art history and literature at the university during 1990s. He works as a translator in New Delhi, India and likes to read about arts, photography, films, life-lessons and Zen.

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