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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Artist Statement

I cannot think of freedom without considering the legacies of chattel American slavery. Although we are all implicated by the history of slavery, as a Black American I feel that I view freedom as the product (or evidence) of revolutionary action and death. This history is also ultimately tied to the essential functions of democracy. For this project, I appropriated the patent drawing of Samuel C. Jollie’s 1857 glass ballot bowl. This ballot bowl was a popular design and was used in northern states between the 1860’s and 70’s. It would have held the ballots of the first legal voting body of African Americans (Men, civil war veterans). I continue to be interested in the “first vote” depiction, as well as the contradictory purposes of truthiness with a transparent ballot box. I layered the patent drawing atop a photograph of a river bank made along the Connecticut river. At the time, I was also researching paths of the underground railroad throughout Massachusetts. As the piece was formed during the 2020 election cycle, I felt the layering of these two abstracted pieces spoke to a form of clarity to be acted upon within the election.

Artist Bio

Jonathan Mark Jackson (b. 1996) received a BA from the Art & The History of Art department at Amherst College. He is currently pursuing his MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design. Jackson’s work engages with historical facts through objects, landscape, and the human form. Through the combination of photographs and language, Jackson calls attention to the mysterious forces that cloud, torment, and stall the formation of a Black American identity.


Jollie Lens (Lente Jollie); archival inkjet on paper; 2020.
No puedo pensar en libertad sin considerar el legado de la esclavitud en los Estados Unidos. Aunque todos estamos implicados en esta historia, como hombre negro estadounidense veo la libertad como producto o evidencia de acciones revolucionarias y muerte. Esta historia de esclavitud también está ligada a los funciones esenciales de la democracia. Para este proyecto, usé el dibujo de la patente para una urna de votación en vidrio diseñada por Samuel C. Jollie en 1857. Esta urna fue usada con frecuencia en los estados del norte del país entre 1860 y 1970, y habría contenido los primeros votos legales de personas negras estadounidenses (hombres, veteranos de la Guerra de Secesión). La representación de la primera votación es un tema que me sigue interesando, lo mismo sucede con el contradictorio fin de veracidad que simboliza una urna transparente. Superpuse el dibujo de la urna sobre una fotografía de la ribera del Río Connecticut. En ese momento, también investigaba los caminos del Underground Railroad, el Ferrocarril Subterráneo, por Massachusetts, la red clandestina de escape para personas negras esclavizadas. Al trabajar en la obra durante el ciclo electoral de 2020, consideré que, al poner en capas estas dos piezas abstraídas, lograba representar cierta claridad que debía alcanzarse durante esta elección.

Jonathan Jackson's print, "Jollie Lens". Two white, line drawings, labelled "Fig. 1" and "Fig. 2" on a black and white image of what looks like the shore of a lake. Grasses are visible as white lines at the bottom of the image, and an uneven water surface is visible at the top. Figure one (left) looks like a simple artistic column design, with a circle behind it. Figure two (right) is a large circle labelled "A", and a smaller circle in the center labelled "B".

Jollie Lens, 2020
Archival inkjet print
17 x 22 in

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