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Painter, printmaker and sculptor Oliver Lee Jackson on the artist who inspires him

American painter, printmaker and sculptor Oliver Lee Jackson has a complex and diverse portfolio that expertly incorporates influences from the Renaissance to modernism and African culture to American jazz. A current National Gallery show presents 18 paintings he created in the past 15 years -- many of which have never before been publicly exhibited. The NewsHour caught up with Jackson in D.C.

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  • John Yang:

    The work of American artist Oliver Lee Jackson explores, among many things, themes of music in American and African cultures. It is currently on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

    Born in 1935, Jackson sometimes collaborates with musicians, and some of the music in this piece was written for him.

    We asked Jackson which artist has influenced his work. He took us to the old masters wing of the National Gallery to see Girl With a Red Hat painted in the Netherlands by Johannes Vermeer 3.5 centuries ago.

    Jackson's story is part of Canvas, our ongoing arts and culture series.

  • Oliver Lee Jackson:

    He's a maker. The effect is supposed to take you into a dream world. That's what it does.

    My name is Oliver Lee Jackson. I make things, paintings, sculptures, et cetera.

    This is all about light. Ain't no light in the painting. The light's out here. But you believe it. This is intense. This is not casual stuff. It's not art. This is making.

    Our canvas is not a three-dimensional world. It is a flat plain, so we have got to make a world. How do you do it? You make the architecture. How will it stand? What will push here so that you can get something to happen that evokes in other people a feeling?

    The piece is really about joy that creates an interior intimacy. Try to express that by just duplicating it again and again, intimate relationships and images everywhere.

    These colors never stop showing themselves clearly and evenly throughout. The pink throughout doesn't shift. So the harmonies are never lessened by the play of the light.

    This one was very, very physical in a specific kind of roughness here and the building up of the paint here, kind of sickness here and there that evoke feelings in you.

    As you move across this visually, you can't help but in the inside shift. It's impossible that you cannot. When it's happening in you, it's like a kind of symphony that is directed.

    He has to make the effects. He makes them with slanting that thing, forcing you to feel space. This is what pulls you. It's not the red hat. It's the red. There ain't no hat in there. That's an excuse for the red, this big slash of red against all that cool blue and those tertiaries and this slash of white.

    To be able to pull that off is to make a punch, just a punch. It's like getting in somebody's face. When anybody looks at this, apart from the subject matter, is that.

    I chose gestures that tell everything I want to say. In this arena, which is the whole world, everything seems to be connected to everything else. And there's actually three of this, three of this.

    In the space, it's closed. They're all closed in. They don't shift outside. That means this is a potent area in which these forms interact.

    I understand these marks, the scraping, everything, every bone. You do this, what does this require in relation to that? What is it — what are the requirements? There's relationships. They never stop until it's complete.

    My aesthetics put it together. Hopefully, it does some work as a machine to you. And that's personal between you and it.

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