Artist: Sara Lorelei Jackson
Born in: Greenwich, Connecticut
Based in: Manhattan
Inspirations: I make images of whatever is holding my interest at the time. If the work isn’t something I’m interested in, I have a very hard time getting it done well. If I were to narrow down things that inspire my work, it would have to be sex/pornography (especially the male body), historical events such as World War II, the Cold War and the Arms Race, or even the 1925 Nome Serum Run. Sometimes I paint from mythology or literature I enjoy. Lots of my paintings indulge in my own nostalgia for things from my childhood, such as Navajo iconography and political caricature. Animation and storytelling greatly fuel my work. Sometimes I illustrate the stories that I write.
About your pieces: I love using little bits of symbolism in my pieces. Some symbols hidden throughout my paintings are obvious historical and cultural references. Other symbols are only meant to represent my own experiences and feelings. People have to spend a long time looking at one painting, and I know that they won’t “get” what everything means, but they don’t have to. More things going on makes a more fun image for myself and the viewer looking at it.
In my most recent project I illustrated J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye; one of my favorite books. Loved it since I was thirteen. I made 25 paintings, and in (almost) every picture I tried to hide a ghostly image of Holden’s deceased brother Allie. I began the project a few days I had lost my dog Ganny, who was in my life for sixteen years. I felt I had too lost a brother, as Ganny was the closest thing to a sibling I had ever had. My own loss reflects in my rendition of Catcher.
In the same project I also hide real historical figures, such as Mark David Chapman, who assassinated John Lennon after being influenced by J.D. Salinger’s novel.
Themes in your work: The themes that people recognize the most in my work are the graphic nudity and sexuality. Painting penises is mostly what I’m remembered for, which is kind of a shame since sometimes the sensitivity and emotional messages of my work can be overlooked. I guess that’s kind of my fault for being so graphic, but it’s just what I paint without even thinking. Nudity lost its novelty for me as a little girl.
I try to examine themes of masculine vulnerability and tenderness quite often. I like to imagine my ideal of masculinity, which is physically powerful and protective, while emotional masculinity to me is highly emotional and tender. Paintings that are extremely exciting to me are where men are depicted as nurturers, or the one who is/needs to be nurtured. Sometimes I take a different turn and examine my own anger at being a vulnerable girl in a patriarchal world, but less often.
Other themes I like to examine are American (usually) politics, maternity and paternity, romance and marriage, and probably a bunch more that I’m forgetting right now.
“I try to examine themes of masculine vulnerability and tenderness quite often. [...] Sometimes I take a different turn and examine my own anger at being a vulnerable girl in a patriarchal world.”