Robert Coleman Jackson’s “Quandary” (left) and “Ready” (right) (Courtesy of Canton Museum of Art)

See ‘Right Place, Right Time: Paintings by Robert Coleman Jackson’ in Canton

The Canton Museum of Art features 14 paintings by this still life painter, who creates intriguing compositions that invite viewers to look closer. 

Robert Coleman Jackson’s still-life paintings expand well beyond traditional boundaries. His works embrace bright colors and glimpses of figures and items from pop culture in scenes that invite viewers to look closer. 

One of Jackson’s paintings depicts Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig jack-in-the-boxes resting atop a stack of colorful wooden soda crates. Another shows pink and blue balloon dogs — each holding a quarter — staring at a pair of gumball machines that tower over them out of reach.

“They’re all a story,” Jackson says of the paintings. “… I want something that people can look at and dialogue with for a long time.”

Jackson was an unlikely artist, and perhaps that is why his paintings speak to even the most casual art-museum visitor. His pieces deftly portray both playfulness and thoughtful refinement. In 1985, Jackson’s girlfriend gave him oil paints as a Christmas gift, which was at the time a head-scratcher for a college senior majoring in electrical engineering. So, Jackson added a studio art class to his schedule for his final semester in college. 

Upon graduation, he worked as an engineer and then an assistant pastor, all the while developing his painting skills and style before pursuing art full time in 1996. Looking at Jackson’s technical prowess and the realistic nature of his works, it is incredible to think that his formal art training began and ended with that senior-year studio class.

The artist’s works — 14 of which are featured in “Right Place, Right Time: Paintings by Robert Coleman Jackson” at the Canton Museum of Art through March 5 — offer a mix of amusement and reflection. Jackson says he collects his subjects from daily life, documenting scores of ideas for every one that makes it to his canvas. 

“I carry sketchbooks everywhere,” he says, noting that he never is sitting at his easel waiting for inspiration to strike. “I have hundreds of ideas written in these books. Most of them never come to fruition, but you have to stay ahead of it.” 

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