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Martha Jackson Jarvis: Ancestors' Bones on view at the University Museums, University of Delaware
Martha Jackson Jarvis: Ancestors’ Bones brings into public discourse aspects of the private realm, drawn from a vintage photo album, as the artist distills and extracts life forces from an earlier time and provides them with new agency.

NEWARK, DE.- Martha Jackson Jarvis: Ancestors’ Bones explores relationships and contingencies linking histories and spirits captured in a vintage photographic album and in the physical materiality of nature. Conceptualized as an environment of immersion that blurs boundaries between sequential and spatial narratives, her installation of drawings, digitally enhanced imagery and sculpture, literally and figuratively unearths resonant histories from the photographic record, dislodging the visual fixity of the socio-historic image, and creatively reimagining their stories within the natural world.

Working with natural materials, pigments, and dyes—most gathered and distilled by the artist—Jackson Jarvis gives new life to dormant or decaying nature. In her large-scale drawing series Ancestors’ Bones: Free Spirits playful if episodic drips, splashes, and brushy strokes converse with densely interlocked coral imagery, weighty nodes amongst the diaphanous calligraphy. These large-scale drawings bear the improvisational imprint of an artist best known for her sculptural work who moves with ease from plane to space and from the abstract to the concrete. The freedom and freshness imparted in the drawings relay the creative machinations, in form, structure, and line that underpin much of Jackson Jarvis’s three-dimensional work, as in Nest Stones and Umbilicus (2008).

As an environmental installation, Ancestors’ Bones evokes the connective tissue that binds generations and genuses, the animate and inanimate, the familial and strange. Jackson Jarvis allows the literal and indexical readings imparted by vintage photographs of black family and community in spare environs to linger but not define, to inform and influence but not proscribe intended meaning. Overlaid with natural and organic referents, the photographic trace becomes synonymous with the lifecycle of nature just as nature is ancestors’ bones. In Jackson Jarvis’s work, the regenerative forces of nature and the human spirit are entangled, nested and rooted. The compost place is Jackson Jarvis’s rich terrain, a source for form, context and creativity.

Martha Jackson Jarvis was born in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1952 and resides in Washington, DC. Her studio practice includes large-scale public commissions and nature based installations. Jackson Jarvis received her BA from Tyler School of Art, Temple University and her MFA from Antioch University. Her first solo exhibit at the University of Delaware was in 1988, “The Gathering,” installed in the Old College Gallery.

The exhibition is on view in Mechanical Hall Gallery, University Museums, University of Delaware, Newark, DE from September 5 – December 9, 2012.

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Martha Jackson Jarvis: Ancestors' Bones on view at the University Museums, University of Delaware

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