Roxanne Jackson, Sculptor + Co-Director of Nasty Woman Exhibition
We discovered Roxanne Jackson through an article published on HuffPost and was curious to meet the woman who started a massive art movement, Nasty Women, with a single Facebook post. While meeting over tea at her live-in workspace in Bushwick and playing with her playful kitty, we learned that she was more than just this passionate artist and organizer. She is simply a brilliant human, creative, and inspiration who shared her background and experiences with us and we are honored to tell her story today.
1. What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an artist. Sometimes I feel embarrassed or shy to say that because it sounds so generic or a lot of people have that story. But its true. One of my first conscious thoughts and memories when I was four years old was not me deciding who I wanted to be. It was simply like, I AM an artist. To be fair, that was influenced greatly by my father who as a hobby always made things with his hands, painted or made little sculptures along the lines of folk art. He was a super creative maker of things and a musician so I was around that and coveted that. It's what I knew.
2. How did this lead to your current style of art and how do you think the public perceives it?
That’s a really big question! In general, I would say that I’ve always been inclined to work that some would say is darker imagery. At points, sculptures of mine fit into the ideas of the grotesque which has a long line of history. Think of Goya during times of war.
I am drawn to clay because it is so malleable, and I am able to work intuitively by responding with whats happening to the clay and can work it into something I like. I have a loose idea and I don’t sketch.
The style is nature plus nurture. I was questioning things like death at a young age when my grandpa died, and I lost other members of my family prematurely. It forced me to think about “What happens now?” Death was a part of my consciousness.
Also, I had a bunch of animals growing up. I had a boa constrictor and one main pet rat. There is something about having an animal like a boa constrictor that eats live prey at 8 years old. So even though we had a pet rat which we loved and was super smart, we would go to the pet store and buy these anonymous mice to drop into the cage and I would watch. There is something about that that teaches you the cycle of life and death directly. So I've naturally been inclined to make darker work. It is not something I necessarily try to achieve.
To answer your second question, how could I ever know how people will responded or think about my work? Everyone has different experiences. I do however try and make my sculptures abstract, so that the viewer doesn’t know the right answer. That answer might be more truthful and provide insight into the subconscious mind of the subject.
Some work of mine is overly figurative, like the Fiji mermaids, but I’ve been focusing on a series called Alienware which is spliced predator heads that come together in a conglomerate. Its a slower reveal of what the actual image is and provides space for the viewer to interpret it and bring to the table their own experiences. I like that a lot.
3. You are also an art professor at a community college. Can you describe that experience?
I was not an art major, I had a science degree. The reason I am telling you that is because I can identify with these students who aren’t art majors, or who aren’t yet... I like community college because it provides a space for someone to be creative. It doesn’t mean they have to be a visual artist, but to give them that space, that is a like social work to me. I want to provide it to as many people as possible. Especially those who don’t have access to art since it is getting cut from so many schools.
I have them practice with glazing and have them do sample test. They are constantly breaking rules because they don’t know anything specifically about art yet, but they make amazing discoveries. Without the risk of sounding cliché, I get a lot out of teaching and I am inspired by these students.
I am on my path as an artist and I am on my path as an educator.
4. What advice would you give to those creatives out there who are struggling to move forward and survive in NYC?
I think its important to prioritize. To me, that word means a lot. At times, NYC can feel competitive and I think its important to focus on WHY you are a creative person. You aren’t a creative person to be competitive or only be in the best shows or get the best grants. You are a creative person because you HAVE to be and that’s the thing to focus on. Express your creativity to honor that.
If you prove yourself and your longevity by continuing to make work, that goes a long way. If someone is motivated enough, they will carve out space to make it a priority.
5. So Roxanne, what is next for you?
I do have a lot of shows coming up: Spring Break, INFINITE DARKNESS at The Lodge Gallery, and NCECA Ceramics Conference . I am also in a panel here that has a political slant talking about why it is important to be an artist or a rebel.
If accepted, I will be in the 2018 NCECA Ceramics conference with 10 female ceramic artists who make work in a more grotesque, visual vain that features Nasty Women! I am excited because it connects my two world of ceramics and the art world in NYC. This is also work with a curator that promotes women’s work and is really involved in women rights.
Nasty Women is also ongoing. There is about 40 other confirmed shows. Our show raised $42,000+ for Planned Parenthood and the Arizona show made $11,000 while San Diego sold $14,000 worth of work. Eventually we will have the total amount raised on the Nasty Women site but they are ongoing. Now, we are figuring out whats next. We don’t want to throw our hands up and that’s it. We want to keep the energy and momentum going and think about how we can do more with being politically active. We have become mobilized and that is really powerful.
Stay tuned for a round table interview featuring all the organizers of the exhibition :)
Interview by Emily + Chary