Tomashi Jackson is an African American abstract painter and printmaker who connects histories and archives in her abstract paintings that are inspired by court rulings. She uses photography to tell the stories of the dispossession and displacement of Black people and others in the United States. Her search is for a visual language in art to convey law and policy. “I have a compulsion to address issues of public concern.” Her rigorous social commentary and themes of social practice are embedded in her work.
Raised in Los Angeles, Jackson was a Bay Area muralist before attending Cooper Union where she received her B.F.A. and the Yale School of Art where she received her M.F.A. In between attending Cooper Union and Yale she did a design-oriented master’s degree at the M.I.T. School of Architecture and Planning that led her to policy classes at Harvard University, which helped her understand why generations of women in her family were domestics. She also studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.
Jackson’s paintings are three-dimensional assemblages that begin with archival or contemporary photographs. To these photo transfers, she adds layers of paper, textiles, embroidery, and prints to tell the narrative of the segregation and displacement of communities of Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the United States. This displacement continues to the present day seizures and foreclosures of homes, owned by Black and Brown people, under the Third Party Transfer (TPT) Program. This Program targets paid-for properties in gentrifying communities, transferring ownership from elderly Black and Brown property owners to developers.
In the 2019 Whitney Biennial, Jackson showed three works that told the stories of African Americans who in the mid-19th century lost their fully paid-for homes in New York City when the Black middle-class community of Seneca Village was razed for the construction of Central Park.
In 2021, Jackson had an exhibition “The Land Claim” at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York. This show told of the oppression of Indigenous, Black, and Latino community members living on the East End of Long Island. In the same year she also had a solo exhibition at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
Jackson has taught at Cooper Union, New York University, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Rhode Island School of Design, as well as other schools.
Her works are in the permanent collections of museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Pizzuti Collection.