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Artists Among Us: Artist Profile - Ruby Jackson

Originally Posted: May 25, 2009

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"Caribbean Day," 1993, oil on canvas, 20" x 30". All images courtesy of artist

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.

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.

"Circling The Drain," pen and ink, 2009, gold copper aluminum leaf.

When did you start making art and what medium(s) do you consider to be your roots in art?

"Ocean Floor," (TIffany's window), 1994, fired clay.

Ruby Jackson: 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.

"Sea Monkeys," pen and ink on clayboard, 2006, 9" x 12".

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?

RJ: 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.

"Sing City," polymer clay, 2007, flame worked glass with wire beads.

How do you support yourself as an artist?

RJ: 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?

RJ: 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.

"Wonderworld," pen and ink on clayboard, 2008, 5" x 7".

What local environmental or historical aspects of the Hamptons do you relate to that may be reflected in your medium?

RJ: 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?

RJ: 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.

"Underneath Venetian Waters," (Detail), 2006, polymer clay.

What advice would you give an emerging artist?

RJ: 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)?

RJ: 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?

RJ: 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.

Related Articles:

Guest (Chaim Lebau) from New York says::
Omg. Ruby Jackson, give credit when credit is due to your unofficial teachers (that's the nicest way to put it). Alexander Ney redux. And you know exactly what I mean.
Aug 28, 2014 3:29 am

Guest (Alrick Isaacs) from Kingston Jamaica says::
your work is an inspiration to me i am currently a 5th form student who attends St. Georges College
Apr 7, 2011 10:14 pm

Guest (Jerry Grey) from London, England says::
If only Ruby's enthusiasm, energy, and unconventional artistic talent could be canned or bottled, it would be the best product ever marketed! She could single-handedly create a whole generation of artists who would look at life with a unique and delightful new perspective. I (and both my late wife Florence and my current wife Zena) are truly privileged to have known her. Allan is a lucky man!
Jul 6, 2009 12:01 pm

Guest (pamela focarino) from 11937 says::
Ruby makes art out of life. Wonderful artical.
Jul 6, 2009 10:55 am

Guest (Elissa Poma) from Washington DC says::
Thanks for sharing this article -- I'm so proud to know Ruby from our travels to the Amazon!
Jul 6, 2009 9:35 am

Guest (Joan Marter) from East Hampton says::
This is a wonderful article about Ruby Jackson. I am delighted to see many examples of her work, and I realize that Ruby has abundant gifts: she is an accomplished artist, and her works are as energetic and joyful as she is. Brava, Ruby! Joan Marter, editor Woman's Art Journal
Jul 5, 2009 4:20 pm

Guest (Julia Ludmer-Duberman) from Southampton, N.Y. says::
Ah! Ruby Jackson, vivacious, beautiful, resourceful, endlessly creative Ruby Jackson! And funny, too--in her work and in her intelligent self.
Jul 2, 2009 8:03 pm

Guest (Cindy Clifford) from Riverhead says::
Ms. Jackson's work is a celebration of color and energy that seems to reach right out and grab the viewer, demanding and deserving full attention and slack-jawed admiration. To take in Ruby's work is to brush up against her soul and for that moment, experience the joy she clearly grabs from life.
Jul 2, 2009 4:56 pm

Guest (Dan Gilhooley) from Bellport, NY says::
Ruby, you're an artist's artist, and a continual inspiration to me! I admire those many beautiful pen and ink drawings you make. They are little jewels--it's no wonder your first show was at Tiffanys. Thanks for making such intriguing and beautiful work. All my best to you and Allan, Dan
Jul 1, 2009 8:00 pm

Guest (Dorothy Frankel) from Sag Harbor says::
Ruby is fantastic and so versatile adn creative.. her energy and optimism is shown in her work. Yes I have a sculpture of hers.
Jul 1, 2009 2:41 pm

Guest (Cara Greenberg) from Springs says::
What exuberant work - I love it!!! And how do you cram so much activity and accomplishment into one life?!?
Jun 30, 2009 10:44 am

Guest (Julie Penny) from Noyac says::
Ruby Jackson is a kaleidoscope of creativity. Her works—in so many different mediums—never cease to amaze me, and, delight me. Her POV, her eye, her execution, that vein of irrepressible Ruby verve fills her art. She is an unstoppable force and talent. Put simply, I'm wild about her work and her person.
Jun 29, 2009 7:17 pm

Guest (Tim Roepe) from Southampton/HudsonValley says::
Your work is original, energizing, colorful in both the three and two dimensions. I believe Krasner would be impressed, and probably a sober Pollock. If I could write like Greenberg I could say something like "..you take orders you apparently can fill.." What I like is that it is totally unique, that it is of a source intelligent and totally your own, and this by the way is the right thing to be a "keeper" of those legends, the ones we admire, you are part of their story. Congradulations Ruby
Jun 29, 2009 4:38 pm

Guest (Chrisitna Mossaides Strassfield) from East Hampton says::
A wonderful artist. I had the pleasure to reecently be in her studio and was truly inspired by the work. Christina Mossaides Strassfield Museum Director/Chief Curator Guild Hall Museum
Jun 29, 2009 2:53 pm

Guest (izzy seltzer) from The World-Wide World says::
Ruby--this jewel-- Ruby J, is way beyond words. Her work deserves to be featured at the MET, the Louvre, the Uffizi, The National Gallery, and MoMA. Stand up and cheer for Ruby, artist of the 21st Century.
Jun 29, 2009 9:38 am

Guest (Chris) from Southampton says::
My partner and I are privileged to own Ms.Jackson's work. As supporters and collectors we love the sculptural quality of her paintings and the vividness of her sculpture.She is fully alive and engaged and her work lives and breathes as well.
Jun 28, 2009 7:25 pm

Guest (Nick Tarr) from Montauk, N.Y. says::
Some people must make art. They do it not for fame or fortune but because they are addicted to creating. For them it is a compulsion that has to be exercised or the vital creature within them dies. Ruby Jackson is one of these rariified and hopeless addicts who's struggle to stay creative I find facinating to follow as she continues her one woman journey to raise unseen colors and forms from the depths of her huge imagination.
Jun 27, 2009 12:31 pm

Guest (Regina) from New York City & East Hampton says::
Hello Ruby ! great profile, congratulations, I learned a lot about you. And, I only love you for getting that prize!!!!! xoxoxo Regina
Jun 26, 2009 6:33 pm

Guest (Martin Shepard) from Sag Harbor says::
My wife Judith and I, have been big fans of Ruby ever since she moved out here and have several pieces of her work: a large wood carving, several small ceramics, a clay flower arising out of a bottle, and a drawing. The wonderful thing about Ruby is that her life is fully reflected in her art: colorful, original, whimsical, joyous, and ever-changing.
Jun 26, 2009 11:30 am


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