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A Visit to the Studio of Carol Jackson

This sculptor and SAIC prof crafts with tooled leather in her Humboldt Park studio. She’s off to the Whitney Biennial this month—but first, a quick visit.

In the studio of artist Carol Jackson   Ratko Radojcic

One of Chicago’s most underappreciated sculptors, this SAIC prof crafts elaborate pieces out of tooled leather that she dries out in her Humboldt Park studio. A John Milton acolyte, Jackson often carves phrases from his epic poems, such as Paradise Lost, into the ornate exteriors.

Is your piece Fate Saves a wearable sculpture?

It’s a sandwich board made from leather, called Fate Saves the Undoomed. I advertised on Craigslist for someone to wear it during my exhibition opening, and I only got one response. She was a psychic. And she was a little crazy. And she said over the phone, I’m a little overweight and I don’t want you to be disappointed because I have a limp. And I said, that’s perfect. I asked her to wear dirty underwear. She went out and got some at a thrift store. She was a trooper.

You teach a class about humor in art. What’s so funny about contemporary art?

There are a lot of parallels between how comedy is written and how art is made. We look at the question, do you get it? How do we keep the punch line locked into the artwork so people can search for it? There’s an agreement between the maker and the viewer.

So you teach art jokes?

In the class I don’t expect people to make funny art at all. I try to make it really clear that I’m not funny. Actually the class is called That’s Not Funny.

What’s not funny?

It’s from an old feminist joke: How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

“That’s not funny.”

[Laughs] It’s so stupid, the idea of being insulted by being told a joke.

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