Roxanne Jackson

Roxanne Jackson

Indigo Kush. sculpture.


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In my work, I explore themes of extinction, death and transformation. I am fascinated with the natural processes of decay and destruction. Nature is referenced not by depicting the virile stag, but by illustrating its inevitable decay. Valuing macabre sensibilities, my work is also seasoned with inspiration derived from both the banality of pop culture and the idiosyncrasies of different subcultures. The final result may seem uncanny or black-humored.

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, which has 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 boundary between animal and human, instinct and reason, the conscious and the subconscious.

The animal (or human) figure is used as a point of departure, so that I may distort, abstract or scrutinize it. For instance, in myAlienware series, I deconstruct an image of a domestic cat and a snake to depict the internal duality of the beautiful and the beastly rooted in Jungian psychology. Domestic cats offer furry, lovable companionship and are a common subject of kitsch. Kitty-themed tchotchkes are ubiquitous, thriving in the form of figurines and cookie jars. Meanwhile, snakes are collectively misunderstood as merely venomous and loathsome—in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, for instance, images of snakes are used effectively in the creepy tattoos that identify Lord Voldemort’s allies. According to the accepted quotidian beliefs of the Western populace, the cat is cuddlesome while the snake is inherently evil. However, when a cat becomes frightened, it transforms into a more beastly animal: fang teeth revealed, ears pulled back, hissing. In contrast, a coiled, sleeping snake is in a vulnerable state, and resembles a harmless lap cat. I have chosen these two animals in order to better mock the mythos of popular culture; the mash-up of these images, with an added touch of the alien, creates something sublime and unhuman.

Made with “crafty” media, such as papier-mâché, ceramics, marbled paper and yarn, other works are inspired by feminine retro-beasts, such as harpies, sirens and Medusa; these archaic figures are combined with imagery found in present-day subcultures. For instance, Harpy (2013) draws on neoshamanism and black metal, a subgenre of extreme metal music. Additionally, Heartbreaker Bong (2015) is heavily influenced by antiquated mermaid folklore and circus sideshow culture from the mid 1800’s, in which Fiji mermaids were a prominent fixture; my version of these monstrous figures appropriates this folk art tradition and re-creates this profound myth. And the Yeti paw, Money To Burn, draws from contemporary manicure culture, a postmodern gesture that echoes what T.S. Eliot called the manipulation of a “continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity.” This provocative work juxtaposes the old and the new, the real and the fabled, the kitsch and the grotesque.