Continuing with our artist profiles of artists both living and working in the Hamptons, our next artist is Ruby Jackson, who lives in Sag Harbor.
- Ruby Jackson was born in Washington, DC, and spent her early childhood in Silver Springs, MD. After her parents divorced, she moved to Forest Hills, Queens, NY, with her mother and sister. Her mother worked full-time as a medical secretary, so Jackson was sent to Hebrew School for first and second grade, "because they had a longer school day." Further commenting "I learned to read and write Hebrew, but not conversational Hebrew. The only conversation I could hold in Hebrew was with God, which was O.K. since I had an absent father. I also developed an early appreciation of exotic lettering."
"Deep Vents," pen and ink on clayboard, 2006, 5" x 7".
Jackson recalls that as a child "I loved to draw, dance, sing, dress-up, play with dolls, and read comic books. I loved the drawings, and learned to read so I would know what they were saying. Archie and Veronica and Betty were my favorites. I never liked school except for art classes. During high school I worked in the [NY] city, enameling jewelry. After graduation I bypassed college (until 20 years later) and studied acting with Lee Strassberg and Herbert Berghof."
Continuing Jackson stated "I took drawing lessons with an artist in the East Village; took improvisation classes at the New School, and read Janson's "History of Art." To support myself I worked a variety of odd jobs, among them waitress, secretary, typist, artists model, census taker, and hostess in the Walter Reade movie theaters."
Jackson finally gave up acting and focused on drawing, painting and sculpture, as she remembers "I met and learned from other artists. I worked in a variety of mediums, including wood, clay, plaster, paper mache, pen and ink, acrylics and oils. In 1975, I had my first exhibit in the windows of Tiffany's in New York City. I had shown one of my plaster towers to Gene Moore, who was the long-time window design chief. He featured artists work in the windows and had shown Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol
long before me. Gene was wonderfully supportive and he gave me four exhibits over the next 20 years. He was an artist himself, a gentle, elegant human being, who lives in my heart to this day."
"Rosie," Rosewood sculpture," 1975, 40" x 8" x 7".
After leaving New York City in 1977, Jackson moved to East Hampton, where "I knew an artist who introduced me to the artists community. For several years I worked mainly in plaster and wood while working various odd jobs. As a self-taught artist I eventually ran out of things to teach myself and decided to attend college. I briefly moved to Sarasota, FL as a scholarship student at the Ringling School of Art and Design. After a year and a half I returned to the area and moved in with my then boyfriend (now husband) Allan, in Sag Harbor. I eventually got my B.S. in Art Education from LIU, Southampton, and became a NY State certified art teacher.
Further discussing her chosen profession, Jackson explains "During that time [while in college, and working in Sag Harbor], I continued to make and exhibit my own work." She was then diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts. After "two lumpectomies, chemo, and radiation - here I am. I also took up snorkeling and flying trapeze."
Jackson explains "Over the past 35 years I have been working in wood, ceramic, pen and ink, polymer clay, oil, acrylic, and gouache. My imagery typically takes inspiration from natural forms which I then abstract, using a variety of mainly original techniques. My current work is a response to the rhythms, forms, and color of tropical, underwater life. This came about when I discovered snorkeling 20 years ago. The fact that 95 percent of the oceans are undiscovered is intriguing to me."
She is a member of Guild Hall and Springs Improvement Society, as well as New York Artists Equity Union, and Southampton Artists Association. Having won the Best Sculpture award in the 56th Annual Members Show at Guild Hall, Jackson laughingly states "After that, I always say, if you want to know how many people hate you, just win an award." Jackson is also a volunteer literacy coach at John Marshall Elementary School and works with Project Most in East Hampton.
When did you start making art and what medium(s) do you consider to be your roots in art?
"Circling The Drain," pen and ink, 2009, gold copper aluminum leaf.
"Ocean Floor," (TIffany's window), 1994, fired clay.
I started making art when I was six years old. My uncle Jerome was a sign-maker, a master letterer, who let me sit at his drawing table and use his pens and ink and boards. I drew pictures of brides with lacy veils, pretty school teachers and dowdy, frumpy school teachers. My older sister taught me one point perspective that she had learned in school, and I started drawing rooms - living rooms, master bedrooms, teenager bedrooms, childrens bedrooms, dens, etc. Then I taped them all together, making one long ranch house. My mother, sister and I lived in a three room apartment, so this was not drawing from life. Years later, I continued creating imaginary rooms, in a series of thematic glass boxes with brightly-colored clay interiors (some of which were exhibited in Guild Hall as part of a three-person show called the "Genuine Art-Tickle"). As for the pen and ink I began with, it has been one of my primary mediums for the past 10 years.
What is it about the Hamptons that brought you here and enticed you to stay, work, and pursue your art as opposed to some place else?
"Sea Monkeys," pen and ink on clayboard, 2006, 9" x 12".
I moved to East Hampton in 1977 out of a longing for trees and sky - something I had not grown up with. I had met Elaine Benson, the major gallery dealer in the area, and she offered me an exhibit for the following season, and I took that as my exit from the city. I stayed because I found a thriving artists community and made many good friends. The natural beauty here can be breathtaking. The light seems to shimmer, and it felt like home.
How do you support yourself as an artist?
"Sing City," polymer clay, 2007, flame worked glass with wire beads.
Since 2002 I have been an assistant to the director at the Pollock-Krasner House
, the home and studio of Jackson Pollock
and his wife, the painter, Lee Krasner
. It is a museum and part of SUNY, Stony Brook. When time permits, I also work as a visiting artist to Long Island schools where I teach drawing the head and figure. Before that, while continuing to work and exhibit as an artist, I had 54 different jobs, including Jitney hostess, sign-carver, radio station receptionist, retail clerk, certified art teacher, children's magician, face painter, and balloon twister.
Why live and work in the Hamptons as opposed to elsewhere?
I feel fortunate to live in a beautiful area, have a rewarding job, and have many dear friends. My husband is a writer and a magician, and we have a small house in Sag Harbor. My aging mother lives in New York City and I need to remain geographically close to her, so that eliminates moving to a third world country as I often think we should.
What local environmental or historical aspects of the Hamptons do you relate to that may be reflected in your medium?
"Wonderworld," pen and ink on clayboard, 2008, 5" x 7".
My job at the Pollock-Krasner House keeps me steeped in the history of the artists who gathered here during the 1940s and 1950s. They were a fascinating group and I feel like I am the caretaker of their legends. My own work is abstract, so I am comfortable with and inspired by their work and their processes. The landscape, the golden, shimmering light on a sunny day, the silvery, grayness of winter light, are all influences that I absorb here.
What artists do you feel have influenced you and your work?
As a kid I was strongly attracted to the Surrealists whose work I first saw, I believe, in LIFE Magazine
. Especially influential were Joan Miro and Rene Magritte, not only because I loved their work, but because I initially thought they were women, and if they could do it so could I. I loved Rene's drawing, and I thought, maybe, I could draw forms like Joan . I also loved Dali and Max Ernst
. As a sculptor, Noguchi, Henry Moore, Brancusi, Giacometti, Calder, Nikki de St. Phalle, Red Grooms, Ibram Lassaw
, Bill Tarr, and Joseph Cornell have all influenced me.
What advice would you give an emerging artist?
"Underneath Venetian Waters," (Detail), 2006, polymer clay.
Learn a skill or trade that will support your art. Find something that pays the most for the least amount of time and doesn't destroy your soul.
What gives you an edge (if any)?
I don't know that I have an edge. I do what I do without giving much thought to whether or not it is edgy. When I look around, I don't see a lot of art that looks like mine - that might be an edge.
What are you working on now, and are you involved in any upcoming shows or exhibitions?
I recently completed a series called "Circling the Drain" (pen and ink with gold, silver and copper leaf) and am revisiting some earlier pieces in carved hydrocal that I never felt were finished. Now, I am finding the true forms lurking inside, and it a very satisfying process. I have also been working on a series of constructions of polymer clay and flame-worked glass over wire armatures evoking imaginary, abstract underwater kingdoms. I continue to exhibit in various group shows, but am not presently represented by a gallery.
• To view more of Ruby Jackson's work, visit the following website at www.ruby jackson.com
Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.