Roxanne Jackson Revolutionizes Kitsch

When one thinks of “kitsch,” they think of tacky porcelain dolls, fluorescent pink flamingos and gaudy interior design. However, New York-based artist Roxanne Jackson redefines “kitsch” through her visual art by combing its poppy gaudiness with the macabre sensibilities of different cultures and subcultures. 

Jackson held a lecture in the Coykendall Science Building on April 24 at 11 a.m., hosted by the Student Art Alliance (SAA). For this lecture in particular, Jackson explored the link between human information, transformation and kitsch through her art.

Jackson has been an artist most of her life, working in two-dimensional mediums at first before becoming enamored with ceramics after taking a class working with them.

“I really responded to the malleable and intuitive nature of clay, and appreciated its immediacy,” Jackson said. “Then, there is glazing. We, as ceramic artists, have the ability to melt a crystallized surface onto our sculptures; and to me, this is amazing and I will never tire of it.”

Jamie Shrezer, the visiting artist lecture coordinator for the SAA and a graduate student in the metal program, reached out to Jackson after the SAA had voted to invite her to New Paltz. She believes that these lectures provide positive experiences for students. 

“The visiting artists give students a great insight into what a career as an artist looks like,” Sherzer said. “The artists, as well as giving their lecture, participate in one-on-one crits with students who wish to sign up, giving invaluable insight into their own work and getting great pointers from the artist.”

The focus of Jackson’s lecture was on her artwork and its fusion of the gaudiness of kitsch and the darkness of the occult and macabre. Her artwork lived up to that descriptor, especially with one of her more recent pieces “Third Eye F**k,” which is a ceramic, split demon head with elaborate designs across its face in bright, tacky blue and white.

Jackson extensively deconstructs her models for her artwork. “The animal (or human) figure is used as a point of departure, so that I may distort, abstract or scrutinize it,” Jackson said. “For instance, in my ‘Alienware’ 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.”

Jackson also takes inspiration from horror movies. “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,” Jackson said. “These images ride the boundary between animal and human, instinct and reason, the conscious and the subconscious.”

Jackson capped off the lecture by speaking about her co-founding of the Nasty Woman with Jessamyn Fiore at the Knockdown Center in Queens, New York. This was an exhibit of protest art by women and women-identifying people after the election of Donald Trump that raised over $50,000 for Planned Parenthood. 

Jackson also runs Heather Metal Parking Lot, a festival inspired by the 1988 film “Heathers” and the 1986 documentary “Heavy Metal Parking Lot.” The festival is held at the Luther Barn Field in Wassaic, New York and is a celebration of heavy metal culture. After the lecture, a brief luncheon was held.

Jackson hopes that students are inspired to pursue their artistic passion. “Whenever I lecture to students, regardless of the media they work with, I hope that they are inspired to make their work and to find their artistic voice,” Jackson said.

At the time of publication, the Visiting Artist Lecture series will have come to a close, but there will be more lectures from the SAA for next semester.