Some seniors would not have the type of motivation and dedication to continue working as hard as they did when they began as a freshman. But that stands true for Dessie Jackson, a painting senior at the Tyler School of Art, who has designed a T-shirt for clothing company The Hundreds and is commissioned to have her pieces hung up in a restaurant in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood in the spring, though there is no clear date set.
“I might not be able to go out and do something on a Friday night and that’s OK, because I’d rather be measured by my bigger successes rather than my smaller ones,” Jackson said.
A native of Lancaster, Pa., Jackson came to Temple always knowing that she wanted her career path to be in art, but not necessarily in fine art.
“I was between theater and fine art, and I kind of went with my gut with what I really wanted to do,” Jackson said. “I didn’t know what my major was going to be because I was always attracted to illustrative work, and I didn’t know what that fell under, whether it was graphic design, or print making or what. Majoring in painting and drawing has given me those tools to really help me figure out what I want to do.”
Every artist has their muse, or something they ruminate upon as they warp into their thinking zone to create their masterpiece. For Jackson, it stems from a feminine place.
“A lot of my work deals with female portraits and female figures,” Jackson said. “I pull a lot of influence from fashion, music and aspects of the contemporary culture. I’ve been looking at more editorial work and fashion magazines, but I also try to bring in other interests and aspects. For instance, I love the darker sense of things. I look at the historical context, such as the Salem witch trials or fairy tales of the grim. I like the mixture of these contemporary figures, aspects and faces of what is defined as this specific beauty.”
While glancing through Tumblr, users may notice how most of Jackson’s artwork consists of images of women. The message Jackson is trying to convey is not quite clear as of yet.
“I’ve been reading about a lot of theorists, male gaze versus female gaze and identifying with what is the specific aesthetic of now,” Jackson said. Some of her work dives past the surface beauty to get to a deeper meaning from the overall piece.
As of now, Jackson’s artwork has been circulating because of the T-shirt line for The Hundreds and the cover art she designed for Gilbere Forte’s album “Nolita.”
“I feel like a lot of seniors base their decision on where there are jobs available, but for me, my dream is to be my own boss. If that doesn’t work, I’m always willing to pick up some other side jobs,” she said. “I want to keep working and if that means I have to stay here in Philadelphia, that’s fine, but I don’t want to stay here forever. I don’t want to stay anywhere forever.”
Jackson said she enjoys listening to music while she works.
“I go through really harsh phases between different genres of music,” she said. “Right now, I’ve been listening to a lot of Tigers Jaw. I like to listen to more quiet music when I’m trying to get into my think space while really digging in to create my work. I try not to let that be the loudest voice in the room, I want my artwork to be.”
And while listening to that music, Jackson fantasizes a common artistic dream.
“My ideal world would be to use real live models, but it’s hard to get someone to sit still for you,” Jackson said.
Her roommate gets to be the lucky model every now and then, or Jackson even looks at her own reflection in the mirror to complete the last minute touch-ups.
“Sometimes, my pieces do have reflections of me in them,” she said.
An artist tends to inspire another artist. Jackson’s admiration comes from her childhood babysitter.
“She wouldn’t consider herself an artist by any means,” Jackson said, speaking of her former babysitter. “[She] would show us little crafty things like how to make a turkey with your hand. I think that she saw my interest in what we were doing, and I was really into it. We took it one step further because she would show me watercolors and I would copy pictures and show her. I think she’s creative more in spirit than in fine art.”
Bigger things lie ahead for Jackson and the circulation of her artwork.
“Currently, I was just commissioned to work for a restaurant opening up in SoHo. I’m making 20 pieces for the place, but only 10 will be hung up. I’m making a daytime version and a nighttime version. It kind of gives the customer two different vibes – the lunch vibe and the nightlife vibe. It opens more visual aid and more interest, I think,” Jackson said. “That’s huge on my list of things to do. I may or may not be making another piece for The Hundreds. I’m excited because there’s a lot to do right now.”
Diana David can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.[vimeo 74165517 w=750h=400]