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JETT JACKSON

About the Artist:

Jett Jackson in her studio

Jett Jackson, was born Laura Lee Jackson in Newport Beach, California. An artist since early childhood, she assumed the pen name "Jett", after a beloved family dog. In 1978-79, Jett attended the prestigious California Institute of Arts (Cal Arts) founded by Walt Disney. It was here scores of fellow students, collectors, and instructors (including the Dean of the Art School), began purchasing her work. Jett's work was selling consistently, quite rare for a student, and the professional art world beckoned only after two years. She quickly became a noteworthy presence in the downtown Los Angeles art society, where she has attracted hundreds of loyal fans and collectors.

Jett Jackson's paintings are generated by many historical influences but metamorphose into products of her own imagination. They read often simultaneously as surreal, charming, humorous, and poignant. Like an author with a thousand stories to tell, Jett's narratives traverse through a broad spectrum of human experiences and visual possibilities.

Jett comments, "There are so many ideas I want to express, and they aren't all suited to one concentrated vision or treatment. Style is often the subject itself - I get to stretch different muscles, evoke different moods and essentially live the life of several different painters.” Collectors have discovered that it is the vitality and range of her work that has been responsible for her ever escalating success. People fall in love with Jett Jackson paintings. Fresh, dynamic and original her images excite the eye, stimulate the mind and trigger the heart.

Jett Jackson's work is currently in over 500 collections worldwide and has been shown in over 65 exhibitions in Los Angeles alone. A definite star on the rise, her work has appeared in Arts and Antiques, Vanity Fair, Art in America, Art News, Art Business News, The Robb Report, The Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles Weekly, Decor Magazine and numerous other publications. Her commercial projects include: billboard designs, children’s books, magazine covers, television and motion picture projects.


The Story Behind the “Alice” Series

By Andrew Sellon – Lewis Carroll Society

Stuck in Wonderland

2008

Even those who have (gasp) never actually read 'Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland' and its sequel have probably seen one or more adaptations in one medium or another, and know that in the end, Alice triumphs over the Queens and escapes the ever-madder realms of Wonderland and Looking-Glass Land for a presumably saner world. But what if Alice hadn’t gotten out? That is the simple yet amusingly provocative premise behind artist Jett Jackson’s latest Alice-themed artwork, 'Stuck in Wonderland', and to my eye there is a difference in tone worth noting in this latest creation in comparison with her previous Alice projects.

In a number of previous works, Jackson has depicted Alice as an aloof, sexually mature young woman with voluptuous golden curls and a penchant for revealing a bit of bosom—in other words, an Alice the original author would never have presented, and one more likely to provoke than please Carroll “traditionalists.” In Stuck, however, Jackson finds a delightful middle ground and mines it to great effect. Here, Alice’s Disney-blonde hair hangs down utterly straight—in simplicity, defeat, or perhaps both. And her trademark white pinafore is rendered for humor and irony, not sexual provocation, because this time, that archetypal garment has subtly morphed into a waitress’s uniform. And while in some of Jackson’s previous works Alice seemed to exert some measure of control, in this latest work, Alice is exactly what the title says: stuck.

The familiar Wonderland and Looking-Glass Land characters surround her, carrying on what appears to be a particularly out-of-control un-birthday party, while Alice stands center, looking away from it all. Her expression is inscrutable—as it is in previous Jackson works, and arguably as it is in Tenniel’s original images—but this time there seems to be a hint of bittersweet dreaming behind the blankness. While the revelers cavort red-nosed around her, Alice looks out almost at us, almost a latter-day Mona Lisa. Is she dreaming of being back under the tree, wide awake while her older sister reads a pictureless history book, or of posing for Mr. Dodgson’s photographs in his rooms at Oxford, or perhaps just of resting her aching dogs on an old ottoman in a tiny East Village studio? Jackson playfully invites us to speculate. And while we’re with Alice in this “No Exit” Wonderland Diner, Jackson also invites us to take a long, detailed look at the dive in which our heroine finds herself marooned.

I am Wabbit
I am Wabbit

Given the number of tattoos on her arm (this is still not a purist’s Alice), one has the feeling that poor Alice has been there for quite some time. Her inkings range from story-related (a white rabbit, a white rose half-painted red) to surreal homage (a melting Dali watch, a favorite Jackson “quote” and especially apt as this work is offered via the Dali Society). And Alice’s customers? Evidently it’s always beer time here. The Queen of Hearts is out cold, head on the table, still clutching a bottle. The similarly incapacitated dormouse, replete with his own tiny bottle and a mysterious little fez, hangs draped out of Alice’s apron pocket. The Tweedles are literally cross-eyed, and most of the other characters are doing their best to catch up.

Only a few of the many creatures crowded into the diner still have their wits about them: the Duchess is busily wolfing down a huge plate of spaghetti, a second waitress in 1950s glasses efficiently plows through the addled crowd with her tray, and the short-order cook is making a lobster dish with one hand while tossing a Humpty omelette with the other. Part of the fun of this work is scanning it for the thematic visual jokes tucked here and there (check out the Specials board and the items on Alice’s tray, for example). In the midst of all the madness, large as life and twice as detached, stands our heroine, with her crisp uniform, “Alice” name tag, and smiley face button. Just as Carroll did with his original stories, Jackson gives us an Alice who is a stranger in a strange land, performing tasks that are beneath her with some measure of grace, in a world crammed with creatures behaving badly—in other words, someone with whom we can all identify. But even if this Alice hasn’t yet found the exit, Jackson seems to be giving us a tiny bit of hope that one day she may. Or at least, that’s the way I choose to see it.

Stuck in Wonderland' is presented as a signed, hand-pulled serigraph on fine quality paper in a rainbow of colors. It is being sold in a limited edition of 500 (250 US and 250 UK), and is listed at $2500, though LCSNA members are entitled to a 20% discount. Even if this artwork is not something you intend to add to your personal collection, if you’ve a healthy sense of humor about contemporary renderings of /Alice/ and an appreciation of artistic talent in general, I encourage you to explore and enjoy this witty work. It rewards repeated viewings—and that is, after all, one of the hallmarks of satisfying art.

After writing about the work 'Stuck in Wonderland', I interviewed artist Jett Jackson to hear her take on it and on her history of /Alice/ projects. Ms. Jackson is an extremely amiable conversationalist, eager to discuss what she puts into her work, and what others think of it. She estimated that she has created around a thousand paintings so far in her career. She noted that in general, she tends to fill her works with references to world art history, love, melancholy, and humor, with a slight nod to cartoons. Surrealism is a favorite device, though she does not consider herself a surrealist in the strict sense. She explained that a number of the image choices in 'Stuck', including some characters, occur in some of her earlier works, and as a result her pieces tend to contain something of a personal art history as well.

Alice in Wonderland

2009

Despite an avowed openness to the sensual side of life, she stated that she is surprised when viewers sometimes “over-sexualize” her 'Alice' images. Yet at the same time, she acknowledged a joy in tweaking or provoking her audience. In one of her Carroll-themed works, “/Alice at the Barbeque/”, Alice is grilling the white rabbit—literally. Not all of Jackson’s /Alice/ images are that extreme, but she did note that her series has strong themes of the heroine seizing control over an unfair world, and even meting out a diva’s revenge in some cases. When asked where her ideas for a new piece come from, Jackson said she felt that “The more I put myself out on a limb personally, the more people would be likely to connect with it.” But Jackson readily agreed that while 'Stuck' still has wild elements, its message is gentler. She said she reworked Alice’s face many times to find the right balance in the expression.

Jackson noted with amusement that she herself has long blond hair and blue eyes, and that comparisons to Alice are inevitable, if not necessarily accurate. She is only too aware of all the /Alice/-loving artists and readers out there: “I was extremely conscious of the fact that there would be an audience very knowledgeable of the original illustrations. And I wanted to honor those images, as I loved them too! I like bringing 'Alice' into the modern world.” Among Jackson’s works-in-progress is an 'Alice'-themed carousel sculpture.


The Dear Pablo Series

Dear Pablo 1 Dear pablo 2 Dear Pablo 3
Dear Pablo #1
1997
Medium: acrylic on canvas Image size: 30" x 24"
Dear Pablo #2
1997
Medium: acrylic on canvas Image size: 30" x 24"
Dear Pablo #2
1997
Medium: acrylic on canvas Image size: 30" x 24"