The most compelling art is art that tells a story, and Preston Jackson’s exhibit, “Fresh From Julieanne’s Garden,” tells vivid tales. The cast-bronze sculptures, last seen at the Chicago Cultural Center, reflect on the artist’s ancestry and his relationship to America’s dark history of slavery. The painstaking detail of each sculpture reveals the personalities and emotions of each subject in a way that brings them to life. Several sculptures are paired with a monologue-style narrative, written in the voice of the subject, and many of which are written in what is commonly known as “slave-tongue.” “The Souvenir,” for example, is a three-foot high depiction of “Miss Alberta,” who clutches the photograph of her hanged father in one hand and a skull-headed cane in the other. The accompanying narrative is poetic and descriptive, but not necessary to understand the work’s visceral themes.
Jackson, a Professor of Sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, offers portrayals of America’s history that link the past with the present in sculptures that are horrific and relevant to current society. “Fresh From Julieanne’s Garden” is a cohesive expression of history that can be seen, read and experienced. It is storytelling at its best. (Shama Dardai)