Portrait of the Artist

Melissa Jackson

Memories, Collected

By Noelani Kirschner | June 1, 2020
Girl with Lamb, mirror with image and acrylic
Girl with Lamb, mirror with image and acrylic

As a child growing up in 1990s West Virginia, Melissa Jackson collected old magazines and letters that she discovered in attics or antique stores. “I always loved finding things that represented time or feeling,” she says. “Specifically, things that repeated outwardly” like newspaper headlines that form typographical patterns or the swirling cursive of hand-written notes. Jackson still gravitates towards temporally-bound, printed objects that she now cuts up and glues onto canvases before painting around them. “I have a large collection of old LIFE magazines I’ve collected from specific years,” she said. “I start looking through them and I’ll stop and cut out any images that strike me in that moment.” A finished work can be arresting: a profound meditation of black-and-white print juxtaposed with luminous pigments. “The idea of collage and mixed media to me represents texture and feeling, the evoking of emotion,” Jackson says.

Her work generally deals with the idea of place and the cultural landscape of her childhood. Though most of the girls in her class aspired to become cheerleaders or beauty pageant contestants, Jackson’s parents encouraged her creativity. The limitations of her environment only pushed her more strongly in an artistic direction. “The frustration sometimes fuels your inner artist,” she says.

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