Jackie Reeves: Big Plans
Through July 10, 2022
By D. DOMINICK LOMBARDI, June 2022
The past two and a half years have given each of us a lot to think about. It seems every day, the complexity of life, the stresses created by socio-political unrest, increased mental illness as a result of the pandemic, and the sensationalism and conspiracy theories bombarding us on all sides can make anyone anxious and troubled. But we have also had time to take stock, find out what we really want out of life and what changes can be made now, or when things start to revert back to ‘normal’.
Every mixed media work on exhibition is filtered through Reeves’ unique self, as faint layers of media slowly come together revealing a series of very personal narratives linking both her past and present. As a Canadian American, Jackie Reeves can take both an outside and inside view of a dysfunctional and self-serving political system here in the U.S., as she reveals that struggle to make sense of what is supposed to be a functional and free democracy in her work.
Take for instance the mixed media painting Master Plan (2020), which features a rough architectural rendering of the scaffolding created to raise the Statue of Freedom to the top of the dome of the U.S. Capitol. Both of her parents were architects in Canada, therefore Reeves would be very comfortable around such complex architectural renderings. The promise of freedom, however, is a different story from what this iconic building, with its lofty adornment, was supposed to represent since its construction in 1863.
This theme of disappointment recurs in Best Laid Plan (2020), which comes from a section of the panoramic painting found inside the rotunda of the Capitol Building. The segment Peace at the End of the Civil War the artist utilized, shows a gather of soldiers from the south and north shaking hands. As we all know, the slavery that was abolished as a result of the American Civil War only morphed into an oppresive racial caste system of Jim Crow laws that brought about devious and illegal business practices meant to cripple hearts, minds and spirits, and the segregation and violence that followed, all fueled by deep seated hate. The painting, which has four ghostly forms stoically acting out the narrative, are slowly being burned away by imagined flames that periodically scorch the very fabric of the painting, suggesting the flimsiness and falibility of the ‘plan’.
Spurred by the events of January 6th, 2021, the Capitol Building makes another appearance in Capital Offense (2021). Here, we see stains of red, black and gray pigment over a frontal view of the now famous main steps, just under a renerding of the architectural floor plan of the Capitol. Clearly reminding us of one of the darkest days of our nation, this work symbolizes how unbelievable, how unreal or nightmarish reality can be for three long hours once our leadership takes a ‘wait and see’ attitude. As we all struggle with this memory, the indelible effect on our collective souls, no matter what side of the isle you stand, is that the truth and consequences of this day somehow seem to be escaping us.
Oath (2021) depicts the artist on what would normally be a throne, with a painter's brush attached to an extension pole that she holds like a royal staff. The actual Oath of Allegiance that hangs next to the painting refers to Reeves’ recent pledge made to become a U.S. citizen, while the faintness of her form behind a dense fog of white paint indicates more of an erasure of one’s self than the clarity of the present or future. Over her left shoulder and below her right elbow, viewers will find quickly rendered pencil lines indicating the presence of others, but the reason for their appearance is puzzling. Perhaps this is something like we often saw in childhood cartoons of the little red devil and the haloed white saint representing the two sides of one’s conscience – the classic good vs evil. Only in this instance, it has come to represent perception vs reality.
There is hope here too, in works like Revisionist (2020), Imprinting (2020) and 3:00 a.m. (2021) where light, clarity, personal history and passion play important roles in the artist’s daily life. As a result, we get a very complete picture, albeit complex, of the artist as a complete person, with all the anxieties, fears, pleasures and beliefs revealed through many layers of mixed media, experimentation, trials and successes that continually occur in the artist’s studio.
The Art Complex Museum is located at 189 Alden Street in Duxbury, Massachusetts. The exhibition Jackie Reeves: Big Plans ends July 10th. WM
D. Dominick Lombardi is an artist, art writer and curator based in New York. A 45-Year retrospective of his art, which was curated by T. Michael Martin, has traveled from the Clara M. Eagle Gallery at MSU in Western Kentucky in 2019, to the Marie Walsh Sharpe Gallery of Contemporary Art, Ent Center for the Arts, UCCS in Colorado Springs in 2021 – next moving to the Dowd Gallery at SUNY Cortland, New York in February, 2022. Some of his writing credits include the New Art Examiner (1997-98), ARTnews (1997), The New York Times (1998-2005), Juxtapoz (2002), Art in Asia (2007-2009), The Huffington Post (2012-2018), ARTES (2016-present), CultureCatch (2006-present), and dArt International magazine (2005-present). Lombardi’s most recent curatorial projects are “LandX” for Red fox Contemporary in Pound Ridge, NY (2021), “A Horse Walks Into a Bar” for the Hampden Gallery at UMASS Amherst, MA, (2020) and “I Am…” for the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, FL, (2020). Contributor portrait by Danh Nguyen.view all articles from this author