It’s often best to let an artist describe their own art, and Sara Jackson did just that in an interview with Julia de la Torre of New York’s Howl magazine in 2016.
I make images of whatever is holding my interest at the time. If the work isn’t something I’m interested in, I have a very hard time getting it done well. If I were to narrow down things that inspire my work, it would have to be sex/pornography (especially the male body), historical events such as World War II, the cold war and the arms race. Sometimes I paint from mythology or literature I enjoy. Lots of my paintings indulge in my own nostalgia for things from my childhood, such as Navajo iconography and political caricature. Animation and storytelling greatly fuel my work. Sometimes I illustrate the stories that I write.
I love using little bits of symbolism in my pieces. Some symbols hidden throughout my paintings are obvious historical and cultural references. Other symbols are only meant to represent my own experiences and feelings. People have to spend a long time looking at one painting, and I know that they won’t get what everything means, but they don’t have to. More things going on makes a more fun image for myself and for the viewer looking at it.
The themes that people recognise the most in my work are the graphic nudity and sexuality. Painting penises is mostly what I’m remembered for, which is kind of a shame since sometimes the sensitivity and emotional messages of my work can be overlooked. I guess that’s kind of my fault for being so graphic, but it’s just what I paint without even thinking. Nudity lost its novelty for me as a little girl.
I try to examine themes of masculine vulnerability and tenderness quite often. I like to imagine my ideal of masculinity, which is physically powerful and protective, while emotional masculinity to me is highly emotional and tender. Paintings that are extremely exciting to me are where men are depicted as nurturers, or the one who needs to be nurtured.
When the Covid epidemic reached New York early in 2020, Sara used the lockdown period to paint a series of canvases chronicling her own and society’s response; we show two – at the end – including ‘Young Dr Fauci Hugging and Thus Taming the Coronavirus’. The whole sequence can be found on Sara’s Instagram page.