Leslie Gillette Jackson (1921- 2013) was a painter and poet. These simple terms belie the elegance, intelligence and perceptiveness that inform her masterful words and works. Hers is a profound art of the “mind of the eyes of the imagination.”
Her earliest art work, in woodcuts in particular, grew out of several extended stays in Mexico in her 20s. She would continue to travel, study and paint abroad – always bringing those experiences, ideas and images into new art forms, integrated throughout her 70-year long career as an artist. This included two years painting in France in the 1960’s and a sojourn in Leningrad [St. Petersburg] in the early 70s, a trip that substantially influenced her love of and use of iconography and architecture in her works (her Drawings of Leningrad were exhibited at the Folger Library in Washington D.C. in 1975).
Her art lies somewhere between realism and abstraction. While her themes are varied, her works are distinctive not only because of their unique use of form and texture, shape and color, and words, but because the thinking behind her words and works is so rich and deep. The source of her art works lay in her acute observation of both the outer and inner worlds in which she traveled and in the unwaveringly truthful rendering of those observations in precisely the most meaningful mode of expression. “…This art of known and unknown cities, deserts, mountains, maps, ancient harbors, and rivers, is never intended to illustrate; rather it seeks to establish inner relationships between word and image, actuality and imagination.”
Leslie was born in Rochester, N.Y. as Elizabeth Mann Gillette. She studied at Swarthmore College, received a degree in Latin American Studies at the University of Wisconsin, and an M.F.A. from the University of California in Berkeley in 1952. She would marry her husband of 62 years, Robert Louis Jackson, who became a full professor and Yale University scholar on Russian literature and Slavic languages. She would have two children with him and a full family life. Yet her life as an artist always remained in the foreground.
Leslie worked out of two studios over the course of her lifetime: in her winter and spring barn-studio in Guilford, CT and in her summer and autumn studio in Truro, MA. She worked in acrylic and watercolor, ink, pencil, crayon and collage. She was as equally expressive in line drawings as she was with “icons” and triptychs– vibrant works on wood that combine carving, ink, acrylic, and collage. A poet of some skill and depth, she also combined poetry and drawing to create doubly expressive works that explored mytho-poetic themes. Her two small collections of poetry and drawings – A Poet in Spain and A Strange Light – are among the first of her works to be displayed on POBA, although her extensive canon of more than 800 works and notebooks will continue to be presented on POBA over time.
Leslie Jackson was also a respected and beloved teacher of the arts at New Haven’s acclaimed Creative Arts Workshop and at Truro’s well-regarded center for the arts, Castle Hill. She taught several college seminars in drawing and on Russian avant-garde art at Yale University. Her works have been exhibited nationally and internationally.