Roxanne Jackson Interview

By Jason Clay Lewis | May 12, 2020
Sweet Tooth 2019, Ceramic, glaze, gold leaf, candle, luster, faux fur, 15

Sweet Tooth 2019, Ceramic, glaze, gold leaf, candle, luster, faux fur, 15" x 12" x 11"

Tell me a little about yourself and your background?

I'm born in the East Bay in California and I currently live in Bushwick, Brooklyn. For years I worked as a river guide in California, and beyond. I also used to teach snowboarding, in the winters in Colorado. So, I had somewhat of a nomadic lifestyle until I settled down (for the most part) to be an artist. My undergraduate degree is in botany, with a minor in art; it wasn't until graduate school that I was able to really delve into ceramics (more on this to follow).

How did you first become interested in art and why you decided to become an artist?

From a very young age, I loved art and knew I would be an artist. My dad drew weird cartoons for me to fill in — and he would complement how well I stayed in the lines (so good craftsmanship was emphasized to me from the very beginning). He also made sculptures from found objects; he was always making, always building something. This had a huge impact on me and I followed suit. It felt natural to me to make stuff and I would do anything from drawing and collaging to building outdoor ‘land art’ — often I ripped up my mom’s raised garden bed, to build landscape structures that housed the various caterpillars, tadpoles or snails that I would collect, tend to and feed. I didn't take a ceramic class until undergraduate school and it blew my mind. Even though I mostly did two dimensional art prior to ceramics, clay drew me in and I instantly knew that I found my medium.

Black Flame

Black Flame 2019, Ceramic, glaze, gold leaf, 23.5" x 9" x 17.5"

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Music, film (sci-fi horror and fantasy mostly, not not exclusively), books (mostly novels)...oh yeah, and my head is full of ideas.

When did you first become interested in ceramics and start using ceramic as your main source of creating work?

As previously mentioned, when I was an undergraduate student studying botany, I was also a river guide. I mostly worked on various rivers throughout California, but I also guided in Alaska and Nepal. In addition to navigating the white water, this job included the role of being a naturalist — educating the guests/clients on the riparian environment. I was interested in ethnobotany and found that sharing medicinal and other practical uses of plants with people was a way to make them feel more connected to the land, something I believed was a crucial and essential part of my role as a guide and educator.

To offset my scholarly studies of science, I started taking some studio art courses. This began with painting and drawing classes, including a tedious scientific drawing course. Eventually I signed up for ceramics and once I started working with this material, I realized that I found my medium. The 3D realm was overwhelming to me, the intuitive and malleable properties of clay, gratifying and addictive. Ever since that ceramic class, I have worked with clay consistently.

I discovered that these fields are connected. The process of me splaying open some of my pieces, like the sculptures from the Wild Mineral series, has a direct relationship with dissection and pulling apart plants in order to identify and study them. Also, my undergraduate degree in science has a formative influence on my artistic practice — one that involves meditating on how the natural world influences myth, folklore and pulp/horror vernacular.


Blackhearted 2019, Ceramic, glaze, luster, faux fur, candle, necklace, rhinestones, nail stickers, 15" x 17" x 9.5"

Tell me a bit about your creative process?

I don't draw prior to sculpting; I work from images. I print out a mood board of various depictions of a subject, say a cat. And as I sculpt with the malleable material of clay, ideas start to emerge and I simultaneously look at images of 'cats' while also taking plenty of liberties as I make up forms. The malleable properties of clay are conducive to this intuitive process of making.

Where does the dark macabre element to many of the pieces come from?

That's the question, isn't it? A question similar to 'where do ideas come from?' -- a question I think about, but don't fully understand; this idea is something that we are all chasing.

In regards to the macabre aesthetic, I don't really know where it comes from, but I do know that it comes naturally to me and that I don't suppress it. I think about how much, as a western culture especially, we censor ourselves when it comes to expressions of "beauty" and sometimes our depiction of this word, via art, seems shallow and one dimensional to me. I think it's okay for artists to speak on beauty, but I find it important to re-define it, to open it up, to show us possibilities, to find beauty in the unexpected, to surprise ourselves. When a woman gives birth, that's miraculous -- most would people agree. And it is. but, it's also incredibly gruesome and bloody. This is life; this is who we are; this is where we come from. This is interesting to us because we understand it deeply.

How has your work changed in the last few years?

Especially within the last few years I have felt a shift in the work. I think it is more brave because I trust myself even more. It feels really freeing when this happens and I am grateful for it. To me, that's when work can really come from you, from that deeper side of yourself.

Pizza Face

Pizza Face 2019, Ceramic, glaze, luster, faux fur, 20" x 18" x 13"

Tell me about your current show The Body, The Object, The Other?

Currently I have work in the show The Body, The Object, The Other at Craft Contemporary in Los Angeles, CA. This is the museum's second clay biennial and it comes with a legit catalog of contemporary works in clay. It's a strong show of ceramic sculpture, and it has been extended until the fall, due to our current social distancing. This exhibition feels timely to me because ceramic work is so hands on, and we are so separate from each other right now, desperate to see some fingerprints in clay, some evidence of the human touch.

@craftcontemporary #TheBodyTheObjectTheOther #claybiennial

I'm also in two online shows, in response to COVID. One is with Public Gallery in London, UK titled, No Time Like The Present, and the other is called Strange Time, curated by artist Stepan Ryabchenko in the Ukraine. More is upcoming -- stay tuned. #NoTimeLikeThePresent #StrangeTime

What are you currently working on in the studio?

I'm building a three part sculpture for an upcoming museum show in Austria. This large scale floor piece will be a 'dragon' in the style of a Loch Ness monster -- complete with a head, upside down hump (for the body) and a tail. I've also been building large scale monster paws / hands -- one in the style of #gnarmouth, and another holding a giant sausage. I'm posting all in progress works on Instagram.