Milwaukee filmmaker ponders location

Jackson presenting in the Wriston Auditorium.
Photo by Georgia Greenberg.

Milwaukee-based artist Maeve Jackson shared with the Lawrence community several of her short films as well as her personal experiences behind them on Monday, Feb. 17. Her talk centered on her life and artistic process through several guiding questions, while most importantly asking the audience to interrogate what spaces can be used to make art and why artists choose to make art where they do. She shared these questions not to give a concrete, proscriptive answer, but rather to guide the audience through her own incessant ponderings of these questions as her film-making process continues to evolve.

Jackson’s approach to her artistic process and the question of what can qualify as a studio has changed significantly since she was in college. After reminiscing fondly about her first apartment and studio in Milwaukee, she explained that she later realized the ephemeral, ever-changing nature of the art world and its studios made the capacity for versatility and taking advantage of the world for art even more pertinent.

Much of Jackson’s appreciation for adaptability comes from changes altering the artist community in Milwaukee. Gentrification, artists moving out to pursue other opportunities and Jackson’s personal compulsion to be more fulfilled in her professional life changed the existing dynamics. It led her to residences in Austria and Ireland where she once again learned the power of working in small, new spaces with other artists, even if they were temporary. The curiosity for new and exciting opportunities also brought Jackson to Chicago part-time for film work in addition to her fine-arts films. While moving back and forth can be stressful, Jackson explained that for her, it strikes a great artistic balance between her professional commission work in Chicago and her fine arts work in Milwaukee. It allows her to keep her projects separate rather than getting overwhelmed by conflicting obligations, once again allowing Jackson to emphasize the inspiration she finds in temporary setups.

As a product of these endeavors and developments in Jackson’s artistic philosophy, she created several films including “wettening,” “’the beautiful’: The Stories She Tell,” “The Tertiary of a Woman,” as well as parts of a project that will become her first full-length film dedicated to her late grandfather. As she screened these pieces in Wriston, Jackson explained her goals and the boundaries she intended to expand with each film. “’the beautiful’: The Stories She Tell” is a piece done in one single shot, highlighting a close friend of hers as a subject layered with an original spoken word. The piece was meant to exercise film as a storytelling possibility, even for stories completely outside of Jackson’s own experience. The film went on to be in the Milwaukee film festival and spread to other festivals and galleries across the US.

The last piece Jackson screened was a snippet of what she hopes to make into a full-length film, entitled “Pass On,” about her grandfather’s life as a dairy farmer in rural Wisconsin. The work so far includes cuts of family interviews and memories recorded as early as 2012, three years prior to his death. “Pass On,” and all aforementioned films as well as others can be found on Jackson’s website, Gallery photos and information about current exhibitions can be found via her Instagram, @maeve_the_wave, where she also encourages students to reach out with any questions about her work.