Artist Profile: Jackie Reeves
Jackie Reeves finds herself “working back to front on a canvas rather than left to right, top to bottom,” she says. By which she means she builds very thin layers in a way that the viewer can see what’s underneath. The effect is that overlapping images are discerned through a kind of mist, coming together in gently disorienting ways. A father is reading to his toddler in a space that looks otherworldly, making them seem as though they are about to disappear at the same time that they are in the foreground. A woman is tending to something, but what? The people on horseback have reached the barbed wire fence, with puddles of water—or are those clouds?—in front of them.
“A lot of my work is based on dreams and memory,” Reeves says. “They’re foggy and they’re moving—they’re not static.”
To accomplish the desired effect, she uses materials that she calls “watery”—high-flow acrylics. And, she says, “I don’t really use brushes in the beginning stages. I use gravity and water. I tilt the canvas and move it, or sometimes squish it between another canvas.” She doesn’t tend to start with a set plan. “I’ll have a loose intention,” she comments, “but oftentimes, I just want to get some color down, and then the medium starts taking over.”
Reeves, a Montreal native who works out of the Old Schoolhouse Art Studios in Barnstable, did not come to the Cape to be an artist. She came for her husband to accept a position at the YMCA. “We had no kids. We felt, let’s just try it for a couple of years,” she says. “I had no idea about the art scene.” Twenty-eight years and three grown daughters later, she has exhibited in solo and group shows not only on the Cape but also up and down the east coast. And she has been profiled in numerous publications, including the Boston Globe and Art New England.
She started out doing commercial murals—a trompe l’oeil on the wall of an Italian restaurant in a strip mall that featured a window opening and trailing plants; other murals for the John Carver Inn and the Cape Codder Resort. “I totally stumbled upon it,” she says. “I happened to meet a person who was painting murals, and she invited me to help her.” Then one of Reeves’ sisters died at the age of 45, the year she herself turned 40. “That kind of jolted me,” she says. “What if I only have another five years? What do I want to leave behind?” That’s when she began painting what she felt moved to paint rather than working solely on commissioned projects.
Next came a show that she put on with two friends. “What do those art people do?” she remembers the three of them asking—“the ones who make art for art’s sake. Let’s try it. And so we did, and then we were hooked.”
Reeves doesn’t think of herself as a Cape artist per se. Regional art—landscapes—wasn’t the kind of work she was interested in. She wanted to respond with her art to something other than just the environment—which is why she populates her canvases with memories, family members, takes on contemporary life.
Along with her dreamlike creations, she paints representational pieces and abstract works. “I kind of just like to shake it up and do something else,” she comments. “I want to always be curious and discovering. I want to always be learning.”
To see what Jackie Reeves has been discovering and learning lately, you can catch her work at The Drawing Room in New Bedford, or shop.anthif.com. Reeve’s Face Time exhibition at Cotuit Center for the Arts, will run from July 29th through September 3rd, or head to her website, jackiereeves.com.