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Nancy Jackson

American, b. 1956


Clay, plaster, wire, metal, gold leaf, beads, paper, rocks, lights, oil, and gouache
18 x 53.5 x 10.5 in. (45.72 x 135.89 x 26.67 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation

“The human mind delights in grand conceptions of supernatural beings.” —Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea

Nancy Jackson delights in small-scale yet grandly embellished conceptions of supernatural beings and landscapes. In this untitled sculpture, which she refers to as the Aquarium Theater, she has blended the compact aspects of the Teatro alla Scala box seats and a stacked wall of aquariums common in early natural history museums with a structure evoking a religious altar or a traveling dollhouse. This is a fantastical underwater world that the science fiction writer Jules Verne would
have admired.

The view of this world from outside looking in resonates with the opening sequence of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, where the camera pans the exterior of an apartment building, displaying the lives within each window frame. As the viewer scans Jackson’s sculpture, it becomes clear there is no defined protagonist in these dimly illuminated underwater dioramas—the eye is left to rove over a myriad of focal points. This object provokes narratives through its design, yet offers up only the faint whisperings of imagined creatures rendered in suspended animation. While no story is conveyed, there is an implied consciousness staring back, like the shark sizing up its quarry on the other side of the glass.

Jackson’s creative process allows her to enter the world of myths and fairy tales without meeting the hero, princess, or monster (or in this case the titan, mermaid, or giant squid). She has dived deep into the belly of the sea, navigating the unconscious to conjure up the ordinary and even banal aspects of a fantastical place. While Jackson was academically educated, her work inhabits vernacular and visionary realms that arise from an innate personal vision that reveals foremost the creative act.

Meg Linton

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