What is fated and what is free-will? In a country that depends almost equally on a narrative of the self-made, pragmatism and the maverick alongside the relatively dominant influence of Christianity and the concept of serving God, the chronicles that make-up American identity are an amalgamation of symbols cut-up and repurposed into a collaged taxonomy. Heroism is deeply entwined with a belief in manifest destiny, frequently giving way to a kind of hubris that perpetually imagines mankind, not so much as benevolent stewards, but masters. Supervisors and CEOS, pioneers and overseers, cutting one’s path, being a leader not a follower: these directives dog the American in their pursuit of happiness, forever running up against the problems inherent to making and living in a community, caring for your fellow-man, and being custodians of the earth.
Carol Jackson’s work has long addressed the concept of American hubris and manifest destiny, borrowing from narratives of the American West, real estate speculation, epic poems, jingoism and expansionism through material choices like tooled leather and references like turn-of-the-century sheet music and trophies. For High Plains Drifter, she looks to Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, and America’s fascination, romance and dependence on the automobile. In a twisted assemblage of papier-mache, Jackson builds a car wreck emerging from the wall. Part crash-site and part marquee, the disaster houses embedded, hieroglyphic messages that only Satan can read.
In her own words, Jackson cites Derrida’s concept of hauntology, an idea that suggests that the present exists only with respect to the past and as time passes, society will come more and more to orient itself towards the rustic or “old-timey.” This old-timey state exists as a specter, a suspended, unresolved state that is neither being or non-being, but rather, a haunting that contaminates the present.
Carol Jackson received her MFA in 1992 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she now teaches. Her recent exhibitions include the 2014 Whitney Biennial, curated by Anthony Elms (New York); Monique Meloche Gallery (Chicago); Kunsthaus Speckstrasse (Hamburg, Germany); the Chicago Cultural Center; Van Abbe Museum (Eindhoven, Netherlands); and The Smart Museum of Art (Chicago). She has been featured in the New York Times, Interview Magazine, Frieze Magazine, and Newcity. Jackson’s work is included in the collections of The Smart Museum of Art, (Chicago) and the Werner Hirsch Drawing Collection, (Los Angeles), among others.