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Local Artists Live: Tori Jackson
May 30, 2020; 10:00 AM–10:30 AM CDT
This Saturday, May 30, Local Artists Live will feature Tori Jackson, a painter whose art speaks not only through its distinguishable beauty but also its vibrant heritage. Originally from Prattville, Tori recalls her youth: full of recreation, playing outside with her sister and cousins, picking fresh fruit at her grandma’s house, and constant creative engagement. “I painted anything I could get my hands on,” she says, as she remembers collecting rocks to paint for her mom. Both of her parents and her grandma, Alberta, were all artists who enthusiastically supported her creative pursuits through her early stages.
Along with joyful memories of exploration and creation, Tori also remembers ridicule growing up, whether stemming from others’ judgment towards or their ignorance of her ancestry. It wasn’t until she was creating work as a live painter and participating in an event at The Sanctuary that she was offered the opportunity to boldly embrace her heritage and share her viewpoint with others through a public platform. Tori recalls meeting Kevin King, when he walked up to her and asked: “Don’t you have Native American ancestry?” She replied, “Yes, African-Native American, mostly.” After this exchange, Kevin connected Tori to Michelle Browder, to take part in Art on the Square, an annual event held in downtown Montgomery that highlights the significance of our city’s history by bringing light to voices often unheard or ignored. As part of the event, Tori performed a traditional Native American dance; this was particularly impactful because it was not only on the same streets that were part of where the Trail of Tears took place but also the very location where slaves used to be auctioned for a penny or less.
As Montgomery evolves, so does our desire to do better, to be better. Read below to learn more about Tori and her art, and how a pure approach to creating is part of her attempt to bring about positive change for our community.
Left: Tori Jackson, Dedicated to Josie Billie (Seminole Medicine Man), 2019, mixed media on CNC cutout
This program is part of the series:
Meet the Artist
What is your favorite thing about living in the South?
My favorite thing about living in the south is seeing change take place, or hoping that my actions and the actions of those around me will make a change. We have a long way to go.
What excites you most about the growth of Montgomery’s art scene?
What excites me the most is opportunity, for all people and all types of art. My art is very different in comparison to what is typical around here and often I have felt unless I paint a cow, shoe, or a barn I had no chance at winning or being acknowledged. It is just not me to paint such things. I do not like being put in an artistic box. Most artists who paint out of passion do not.
What piece of art that you have created is your favorite, and why?
I’m not sure if I have a favorite. I try to put meaning into all of my paintings and there are so many I can look at and remember exactly where I was and how I was feeling. However, I will say, I did do a portrait of my grandmother (Annie Lou) and because of the way I feel about her that may be my very own Mona Lisa. She is not always fond of pictures, and I had been begging her for years to let me paint her. The day she finally agreed, I called her that morning and for whatever reason she said, “alright”. I was so excited I’m pretty sure I got in my car within minutes after hanging up to take some pictures of her for reference. I took an elaborate scarf and wrapped it around her head and took her glasses off and she began to pose. That day she felt as beautiful as I’d always thought she was.
What are some works of art in the MMFA’s collection that inspire you?
I have two art pieces that always struck me. One has an orange fish surrounded by long blades of grass (Leonard Koscianski’s Red Fish, 1990). The colors have such contrast that the green from the blades of grass and the orange line down the back of the fish look like they are glowing. It’s definitely the colors of that painting that grab me in. My other favorite painting has an almost androgynous woman holding a baby (Gary Chapman’s Mutter und Tochter, 1993). The figures are so detailed and perfectly proportionate. Aside from the figures, the presentation of her body language is so strong. It makes me think of how strong women truly are, but also eliminates the everyday typical appearance of a woman. Every time I see that painting it makes me want to go home and practice my figures that much more.
Do you have an all-time favorite work of art, and have you seen it in person? If you have, how did you feel in the moment?
I’m not keen on claiming to have one favorite painting because my mood changes day to day, hour to hour and I have so many artists I love. However, I have always been fond of Vincent van Gogh. I was fortunate enough to get to travel abroad in college to Paris. While in Paris, we went to three museums, The Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, and unfortunately another I cannot recall, other than it had contemporary art. I never thought I would get to see Van Gogh’s art in person and I was overwhelmed with emotions; the movement in his paintings is so incredible. I cried right there in the middle of Musee d’Orsay. Michelangelo and Monet were both incredible, too. Water Lilies is huge! Pictures do not do justice.
Tell us about your most preferred place to be on earth. What role, if any, has the energy of that place helped shape you as an artist?
My favorite place to be on earth is probably The Smoky Mountains. The serenity and fresh air is absolutely something that recharges my soul. Having a peaceful mind or wanting to gain a sense of peace is a big part of my process as an artist.
What drives your creativity?
Balance drives my creativity. It is a type of therapy for me. Music festivals have absolutely been a big part of that drive as well. Receiving an opportunity to work next to some of my current favorite artists like Drake Arnold and Steven Teller is an indescribable feeling.
What is your preferred medium?
My preferred medium is oil paint. I had a great teacher my first year in college and we were all required to purchase oil paint. I like it because I can leave a piece and go back to it.
Do you listen to any particular music when you create?
I do not have a particular type of music I listen to when I paint. My music depends on my mood, but my colors depend on my music.
What advice would you give to beginning artists?
My advice would be find your audience. There is no right or wrong in art, because art is subjective. Some people like Picasso in his earlier realism stage, some prefer his later impressionistic stage.