Preston Jackson

The 2017 School of Art + Design Convocation speaker will be 1971 MFA alumnus and artist, Preston Jackson.

Preston Jackson is professor emeritus of sculpture at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and owner of The Side View Gallery, home of the Contemporary Art Center in Peoria, Illinois. He creates bronze figurative work and monumental steel and cast bronze sculptures as well as two-dimensional pieces.

Jackson's work deals with his concerns about social interaction between various groups of people and is geared toward the betterment of our society. The intent of the work is to cause the viewer to see things they may not have considered before, or perhaps to examine them from a different, more universal perspective. Even if the audience does not see things from his viewpoint, he hopes to trigger some recognition of his intention, and allow viewers to address it on their own terms.

Preston’s recent sculptures deal with the subject of our history—both precise depictions of well-known historical figures as well as innovative portrayals of individuals whose lives, though unfamiliar to us, are part of our history that he wants us to learn. He seeks to honor the many people who have been left out of the visual history of our country, and to tell their stories in an effective manner that is appropriate for all.

His latest series, “Julieanna’s Descendants: Images from the Closet Trunk”, reveals the lives and personalities of all our forbears who lived in the United States in the 19th and early 20th century. Despite the hardships of those who had been enslaved or viewed as less than human, the pieces do not reflect bitterness or hostility, but rather an admiration for the resolution and resiliency of each individual.

Jackson's commissions include “Acts of Intolerance”, two 14’ cast bronze columns depicting the events and aftermath of the Springfield, Illinois Race Riot of 1908; “Distant Paths”, a cast bronze and stainless steel sculpture about migration at Purdue University, “Bronzeville, A Moment in Metal” memorializing the Bronzeville neighborhood in stainless steel and cast bronze for McCormick Place West in Chicago; “From the Cottonfield to the Battlefield” a Decatur, Illinois granite and cast bronze relief memorializing Abraham Lincoln’s decision to permit African American soldiers to fight in the Civil War; “Knockin’ on Freedom’s Door”, a 30-foot stainless steel and cast bronze piece on the subject of the Underground Railroad in Peoria, Illinois; the bronze entry and exit doors and building façade at the Cahokia Mounds Museum, “Byways to Equality”, a stainless steel and bronze sculpture about Martin Luther King’s legacy in Urbana, Illinois, a 12-foot sculpture on Wacker Drive in Chicago of Irv Kupcinet, the late Chicago Sun-Times newspaper columnist and broadcast personality; a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of Richard Pryor in Peoria, a 10-foot stainless steel depiction of a mother and her son in Peoria, a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of Miles Davis for Alton, Illinois and a bust of Fred Hampton in Maywood, Illinois.

He has been selected as a 2014 Southern Illinois University Distinguished Alumnus, was awarded two Regional Emmys and was a 1998 Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois.