Written by Christopher Cudworth
The work of Lesley Jackson takes viewers on a contemplative if ultimately disturbing trip down streets where animals find their end. Here new paintings are based on creatures she’s encountered either in the last throes of dying, or long since dead.
Yet there is peace to these paintings because Jackson has essentially distilled her encounters and deconstructed both the appearance and emotion of the animals in last repose. “I kept finding these animals along the road,” she shares when asked about the work in her Kane County Chronicle Gallery show upstairs at Water Street Studio. “And it made me sad. But the
n it seemed like the right thing to do to paint them.”
As a result, her work of two raccoons titled Chained is no literal interpretation of two unfortunate creature by the roadside. Instead, they almost appear to be conversing, or engaged in a dance. Or perhaps, chained together in final circumstance. The fact that the painting leaves room for interpretation engages the viewer in their own considerations. Are these creatures at peace in the order that human beings think of it? Have they given up their souls, or has death rejoined them in some way?
While those topics seem uncomfortable in some respects, there are hints in her other paintings that she is giving these creatures a final if abstracted resting place. The large scale painting titled Fire On Cement features the coiled figure of an opossum lying on a platform of what is subjectively its own blood. Yet the warmth of the muted color red is almost comforting against the cold gray landscape raised up behind the still creature.
Jackson has adapted her love of thickly applied paint to more confined areas, especially breaking down the space around and within her creatures to shapes that in some cases serve as outlines. In other areas, these hint of organic substances or light left to bounce around the painting.
Her methods get a smaller scale stage in a series of drawings and prints that show both the analog and digital thinking that goes into her work. These topographical drawings make us realize her ultimate point: We largely imagine our assumptions about the structures we see. We can map them any way we like, and find that “thing” within and without life that gives us our impressions of reality.
Sometimes that absence of literalism is what makes us think more deeply about the events, even death, that we encounter in life.