Jacques P. Jackson Explores Sensuality through Mosaics and Paint
Jacques P. Jackson’s art opens up conversation and explores sensuality, the human form, and the inner soul with his mosaics and paintings. It demands a space of its own. His work was a part of CAN Triennial 2022, on view at the Hildebrandt Artist Collective and at the Pivot Center. We met at his home studio to talk about infertility, Roe v. Wade, and how people engage his work. Also, that rendering of my penis I didn’t model for. But first: Diamonds.
JIMI IZRAEL: So, somebody got they car broke into out front when I was kid?
JACQUES P. JACKSON: Mm hm.
JI: And the window glass broke off into little squares—and I swore before God somebody had poured diamonds in the street. I would pick up a handful and look through them at the sun. I was just like, “Wow.” I don’t know that the glass mosaic form ever occurred to me ever though.
JPJ: It occurred to me. I was at a craft fair in Atlanta—I was roughly around 28.
JI: What had you been doing to that point?
JPJ: To that point, I had been doing Greek paraphernalia, initiation paddles, and plaques.
JI: You were doing Greek paraphernalia, but none of it was making your pockets fat.
JPJ: Right. None was catching. I was working driving jobs.
That got old. So, I looked back at the mosaics, and I said, “Okay, just pick one way,” because I hadn’t considered that before. There’s a dozen ways to do it… so, I chose one way and so, I bought the tools that I could afford. These were hand tools. I bought some glass, and I started with this thick glass right here.
I used to hang out in the, quote-unquote, African shops. I took [work] over there, and she was like, “I don’t know what to do with that.” We posted it on Instagram, and the lady on the next corner saw it. And she said, “Did anybody get those? Bring them over.” She sold them within a week. I did more, she sold that within a couple months. So, that was kind of really the spark of the mobility. I chose the human form, because, more than anything else, most people have a body.
JI: Well, let’s be honest. You’ve done more than just choose the human form. You’ve chose the naked woman’s form. Also, you’ve also chosen dicks. (motions around the room) There’s a lot of dicks. (Jackson nods, chuckles ) Not just random, active dicks in a Mapplethorpian way … this is definitely, to my eyes, an erotic exploration … in a sensual way, not in a sexual way, which I appreciate. Yours is definitely a celebration of the body. I think that there’s a distinct difference, but you can correct me if I’m wrong.
JPJ: (deep breath) Okay. So, my joy in school was biology. And so, I brought that together with my other joy, art, in the form of celebrating human bodies. Initially, I did the male and female form as a couple. I decided that the phallus is more interesting erect than flaccid. I’m going to do something different. It’s going to be erect rather than flaccid. We see flaccid in most of the Greek sculptures, so let me change it up a little bit. And so, that was my intention.
Initially, I didn’t start with the uterus piece for the women. It was just breasts. But here recently, I figured out women wanted to show their genitals as well. So, I came up with that. I’m really about the power of the uterus, really. I didn’t get to talk—when I was growing up, about sex. I got two sentences. Always wear a condom because a woman can get pregnant anytime she want. And, two, don’t get trapped. That’s it. That’s all I got. That was it.
So, what that really turned into was, okay, I’m going to stay a virgin until I’m married. I tried that, and I kept that through college. And then, when I was in grad school, I said, “Whatever. Let’s go ahead and do it.” And then it was a pattern of, after that, I really only dated women who couldn’t have children.
JI: Wait—what? You only dated infertile women?
JI: As a matter of course?—it was a criteria?
JPJ: It wasn’t a criteria. Not a conscious criteria.
JI: Somehow you found yourself drawn to women that were infertile, but yet your work explores the fertility of women. Hmph. And male fertility, well, clearly, all these motherfucking dicks. Yeah. I mean, the fertility of us all apparently … how? Why?
JPJ: Yeah, yeah, because I thought I had time.
My mother had me at forty, and she tells a story when I was born. They told her, “You should think about getting your tubes tied.” She got up out of bed and she went around to all the other mothers. She asked them, “What are the nurses telling you?” She told me that all the Black women said, “Yeah, they’re recommending the tubal.” And all the white women said, “They said to have as many children as you possibly can.”
JPJ: And so, this is coming full circle with what’s going on now with this Roe versus Wade. Just to be off the subject a little bit.
JI: No, we’re fine.
JPJ: Black women and white women have two different issues in the same issue. So, Black women need to look at that too. Yeah. So as I grow older and gotten older and I… Okay, man, I think I do want to leave a child here some kind of way or another. But if you’re dating women over forty, they’ve had their uterus taken out already.
JI: So, the uterus and the penis, as a recurring theme of your work, is it a lament for the path not taken, the child you didn’t make?
JPJ: Yeah. Also, I think that part of it is that I think that I want parents to talk about reproduction sooner with their children, earlier than college, earlier than even high school… So, the first phallus piece I made was in 2018. And Black Panther was out at the time. One of my female friends, she said to me-
JI: Holy Shit, bro … where is this…
JPJ: “If you ever send me a dick pic, we can’t be friends no more.” And so, I took that as a negative.
JI: (flatly) Right?!
JPJ: (nods) So I said, “Let me figure out a way to do exactly that, but in a way that’s not exactly offensive.” And I came up with this piece—I called him Vibranium.
JI: (points to a large, black, glass and wood rendering of a penis) Him?
JPJ: (points to another similar piece) This one here. Yeah. So, she got a good laugh out of that.
I just made that one piece, and then, I had it for a while and couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t selling. I was in a glass-making shop, talking to the glass maker, and he said, “Well, you going to have to make more than one in order to sell any.” So, I made four more. I had a total of five.
JI: Did they all have names? Mr. Rock and Roll? Hellraiser?
JPJ: These do, yes.
JI: Okay. What’s his friend next to him? What’s his name?
JPJ: That’s Groot.
JI: Groot. Groot, from Guardians of the Universe?!
JPJ: Right, that’s Groot.
JI: Jesus Christ.
JPJ: Green Goblin is downstairs. You want me go get him?
JI: You know what? (pause) I think I’m good—I’m good on Green Goblin.So we got Groot, Vibranium, Green Goblin …?
JPJ: Luke Cage.
JI: Luke Cage.
JPJ: He’s in Chicago.
JI: Of course he is. (points to a twelve-incher) Who’s that?
JPJ: He doesn’t really have a name yet.
JI: So, kinda like, Malcolm X?
JPJ: Malcolm X? Well, I’m trying to keep with a Marvel theme.
JI: Got it. Oh. I see. So Thanos, maybe.
JPJ: Thanos? Okay. I’ll work with that.
JI: (studies the fourteen-inch phallus for a moment) See, yeah… (thoughtfully) well, I guess if you name him “jimi izrael’s cock in effigy,” that’s kind of on-the-nose—so yeah. (they share a chuckle) Thanos. Yeah. It’s sensual but it’s not sexual.
JPJ: Right. That’s kind of the lane that I’ve tried to stay in.
JI: Me too, so I’m not mad at that. I’m not mad. (points to another piece on the wall) The celebration of the woman’s uterus is really stunning … you’re just exploring something really hypnotizing here, but … (looks around the room) not for nothing, you’re also painting too.
JPJ: Yes. These are self-portraits.
JI: That’s you?
JPJ: In a way. It doesn’t look like me.
JI: Not unless you’re Nebuchadnezzar.
JPJ: They don’t looklike me, but they start out as me thinking of myself and just going with that look.
JI: Ah.Talk about your experience in shows and direction to your work, when people engage it in person.
JPJ: There are people who love it. They are intrigued by the color, the brilliance. They get chuckles at the male phallus once they realize what it is, cause they look at it as a whole.
JI: Who can’t look at it and see it as a dick!? Are they’re shocked and dismayed when they realize it’s a phallus?
JPJ: They’re shocked, but sometimes it’s a chuckle. And then, with other people, it’s, “Oh, I can’t look at that.”
JI: What is that about?
JPJ: If it’s not for you, it’s not for you. That’s just how I choose to roll with it.