Right now, Jackie Reeves is studying her heart out. “Looking at art history is the most exciting thing to me,” she says. After recently finishing up the low residency MFA program offered through the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Reeves is still learning by examining the work of others. “I’m looking at artists that are employing the figure as an abstract element,” she explains. Reeves is concerned with the discourse of painting and where she fits. “I feel like I’m caught in the middle right now and I’ll figure it out,” she says. “I’m just kind of switching back and forth between figuration and abstraction.”
That struggle is visible in her most recent works, in which the figure seems to occupy a very different role in each piece. In some pieces, the figure is all but obliterated, and layered aggressive marks suggest spaces where it might have been. In others, the figure is almost a failed narrative placeholder, a character without a clear story. “Initially, I was really content driven—my work was really about certain things, and it tended to be about the female experience and my experience as a mother of three girls, growing up with six sisters,” she says. “Now, it’s more about surface and paint, texture, composition. I’m finding ways to express it in a more abstract language.”
Reeves’s process is instinctual and intuitive. Her works are layered combinations of drawing, painting, and collage. Gestures are active but varied—sometimes small, frenetic, and repetitive childlike scribbles, sometimes large, graceful, sweeping curves. Almost all of her work features fabricated colors—sometimes hot pinks, electric blues, or neon mustard yellows.
Visual art in some form has been a constant throughout Reeves’s life. Raised by two architect parents, Reeves’s childhood was rich in artistic expression. “Keeping a sketchbook was a natural thing,” she says. “In my leisure time, I drew.” She studied design in college and moved to the Cape in 1995. In 1998, Reeves helped found the Plymouth Community Art Center. With 900 students after its first year, the center was a success, and for seven years, when her kids were young, Reeves helped run the center.
Reeves later found an artistic home at the Chalkboard Studios in the Old Schoolhouse in Barnstable Village. In this progressive enclave, a small group of dedicated artists is working on visual problems in a way that is most commonly associated with Provincetown and off Cape—presenting work that is a little more risky.
Reeves is currently showing her work at the Tao Water Gallery, Provincetown and at the Higgins Art Center at Cape Cod Community College in Dennis. She is excited to move on to the next phase of her career and sees art as a lifeline. “Art is a necessity for me,” she says.