Cindy Jackson: Empathic Sculptor

As one stands face to face with the sculptures of Cindy Jackson one feels a bit of self reflection happening.  Walking around them one feels small yet there is a familiarity in them.  Jackson creates these nude male figures that are covered with the objects of our desires.   It's hard to believe, yet almost telling in a way, that Jackson once worked as a sculptor for Hasbro and McDonalds.  You know?  The toys in your happy meals?  She is also skilled as a painter and has worked as a graphic designer.  Can you see the connection now?

All of Jackson's skills throughout her life have lead to this.  For without those experience she would not be able to make the kind of work you will see before you in Palm Springs this February 14th.  Yet the final catalyst that created a new excitement for her was a sculpture she titled 'Yo-Yo Man' and if you can visualize what it might look like you would be right.  Jackson utilized the rule 'Ask for forgiveness instead of permission' when hanging one of her Yo-Yo Men over the LA River (see image below.)  This exposure to the public and her art living outside showed her a new level of where her art could go.

To see her piece in person check out her work at the Palm Springs Convention Center this February 12-15th.

In '(Not Quite) Salvation’ the sculptures almost seem to be beckoning to the heavens and with your religious upbringing is there a connection to their position and a possible message to the viewer?

The show (Not Quite) Salvation is an exploration into ways in which we, as a modern society, seek ‘salvation’. True, I was brought up in a very religious household. And yes, I am sure that it has strongly influenced the way I look at the world. I take a pretty critical view of not only organized religion, but also the way in which we tend to follow others.  Speaking broadly I do think that our culture (all cultures really from the past and forever onward) will be seeking.  We might not always be seeking the same thing, but we are forever looking for something to take us to a higher place. Perhaps it’s because I live in Los Angeles, but it’s apparent to me that we seek our higher self by striving for money (or at least the appearance of money) - and that manifests itself in the lust and constant consumption of brands that project affluence. Our “religion” manifests itself in the surface of things. 

Is it your intention to direct the viewer towards an inner reflection of their spiritual side? Noting that religion, faith, spirituality has always been a touchy subject matter in the art world.

No, not really. It’s not my place to direct anybody to anything really. That’s their job when they look at my art. I’m just voicing what I feel and see. I agree with the axiom that the more personal something is, the more universal it is. Art asks the big questions- and religion, faith, spirituality, sex, love, are the big questions.

Having begun in Graphic Design then studying Painting and now you are a Sculptor can you pinpoint the catalysts that drew you to transition from one medium to the other?  And can you elaborate on how each has contributed to your current work?

Graphic Design taught me to meet deadlines. It also taught me to look at everything in a connected way and to try to distill visual information so that it not only communicates broadly but succinctly. Leaving that as I did to return to art school and study fine art/painting, I began to think about making art that spoke in a much more personal way. Good design is good design no matter what form it takes, but fine art is very different that graphic design. If graphic design is the clothing, then fine art is the skin. I should have known that I would have loved sculpting, because I love building things and I love problem solving engineering challenges. So when I finally did discover sculpture, I went at it full bore and never really looked back. 

Can you speak to the inclusion of animals in your life and how they have contributed to your art practice?

Well they are constantly underfoot, they make me take breaks that I otherwise might not, and they eat my clay. HA!

Why make such big sculptures?  What do they accomplish that other mediums or methods do not?

I love the physicality of sculpture and of working large. For me it carries a power that I don’t experience when, for instance, I look at a painting. There was a time not too long ago when I was hanging my sculptures of Yo-Yo Man on the streets of Los Angeles and just leaving them there. For me, it was the act of taking a work of art out of the precious nature of an art gallery and instead incorporating it into our everyday world just to see what it would do. I very quickly came to realize that the size of the work and the way that it activated the space around it was as much a part of the work as the sculpture itself…which led me to thinking about installations…

The Salvation Men need to be big. My LV Angel needs to be life-size. My Hanging Jesus Swag Lamps need to be smaller than life-size.  The size I choose in making my sculpture is all about the psychology of how we perceive things in relation to our bodies. That being said, certainly everything doesn’t need to be gigantic. My savings account can’t take that. HA!

'Yo-Yo Man' over the LA River.  Photo ©  Ron Resnick/Blurrylens Photography

'Yo-Yo Man' over the LA River.  Photo © Ron Resnick/Blurrylens Photography

In general what would make the artist’s life easier when involving installations in public places?

An artist’s life in general would be easier if we had broader public support and acknowledgement for what we do. Installing work in public places is at best an act of blind faith and at worst a risk of getting sued and losing everything. There are so many departments to go through to get permission to do anything in public and the process of permission is so long, complicated, and full of people in places of decisions who won’t allow anything that they don’t immediately understand, that the only recourse artists have left is to put work up without permits and without permission. That system needs to change. Our city could have a much more humane face if artists could contribute more freely in the public sphere.

Much can be read into your Yo-Yo Man sculpture, being that large portions of your sculptures are men.  And you are female.  Is there a reason why you create more male sculptures?  Is it the physical strength or another trait?

Ha! Well. I guess I need to sculpt more women. True, the last two bodies of work have represented men. Yo-Yo Man started off as a completely different sculpture. It started as a sculpture of a woman holding a tiny little working version of my big Yo-Yo Man. The piece, to me, was about relationships and how we use each other. One day I was sitting and staring at the sculpture and began to realize that I could say that and even more by getting rid of the woman and by making the yo-yo really large. Then it talked of the precariousness of life and how we are held on this earth by a thread. The Salvation Men needed to be men because a female on her knees means very different things. Art history (and society really) has taught us to objectify women’s bodies and to sexualize them. Meanwhile male bodies signify power. One has to be careful with such things… Does anyone ever ask male sculptors why they sculpt women?

What work can we look forward to seeing in the coming year?

Feb 12-15th I will have a large installation of (Not Quite) Salvation- The Ascension at the Palm Springs Art Fair. (BTW- there is a female component to this work. HA!) This installation rests somewhere between the genre of religious iconographic paintings and a good Bergdorf Goodman window display… which is where I’m heading these days. I’m thinking about space and how the sculptures I make take on more meaning when I surround it in an environment of my making.