Martha Jackson Jarvis

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Martha Jackson Jarvis
Lynchburg, Virginia, USA
Known forSculpture

Martha Jackson Jarvis (born 1952) is an American artist known for her mixed-media installations that explore aspects of African, African American, and Native American spirituality, ecological concerns, and the role of women in preserving indigenous cultures.[1] Her installations are composed using a variety of natural materials including terracotta, sand, copper, recycled stone, glass, wood and coal. Her works often focus on the history and culture of African Americans in the southern United States. In her exhibition at the Corcoran, Jarvis featured over 100 big collard green leaves, numerous carp and an live Potomac catfish.[2]

Jackson Jarvis is best known for her outdoor public installations, including a mosaic, "River Spirits of the Anacostia",[3][4] located at the Anacostia Metro station in Washington, DC, and sculptures, "Music of the Spheres,[4] at Fannie Mae Plaza in Washington, DC, and "Crossroads/Trickster I," at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh.[5][6] She also worked as a designer on the set of Julie Dash's 1991 film, Daughters of the Dust.[5]

Julie McGee, an art historian at the University of Delaware stated, “The work of Jackson Jarvis operates in two worlds—that of large-scale public commissions and the more intimate space of the gallery. Very few artists are able to finesse both, and certainly not with her acumen and sensitivity.”[7]


outdoor mural of fish and other wildlife
"River Spirits of the Anacostia," Anacostia Metro Station, Washington, DC

During her early childhood in the 1950s and 1960s, Jackson Jarvis lived in Virginia, an experience she describes as "very segregated."[7] She credits her interest in art to a childhood experience of accompanying her grandmother to a local spring to gather white clay and later making dolls and other objects with the material.[1] The family moved to Philadelphia when she was thirteen.[8]

Her freshman year at Howard University in 1970 was very influential due to the active presence of artists including Lois Mailou Jones, Ed Love, Jeff Donaldson, and Elizabeth Catlett. She transferred to Temple University's Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, to study ceramics.[8] Jackson married Bernard Jarvis, the cousin of Bebe Moore Campbell. She continued her studio work while her children Njena and Bernard Jr. were young.[8]


  • Martha Jackson Jarvis art work Anacostia Metro Station, Washington, DC.
  • 1977 - African American Historical Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • 1980 - Washington Project for the Arts (WPA), Washington, DC
  • 1981 - Howard University, Gallery of Art, Washington, DC[1]
  • 1996 - Structuring Energy at the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC[1]
  • Addison-Ripley Fine Arts, Washington, DC
  • Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
  • 2018 - Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Outside/IN, Washington, DC[4]

Selected awards and honors[edit]

  • 1986 - National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in sculpture[9]
  • 2000 - Creative Capital Award in visual arts[10]


  • Gathering, 1988; University of Delaware[11][12]
  • Ochun: Earth Mounds, 1999-2000; South Carolina Botanical Garden, Clemson University [13]
  • Music of the Spheres, 2003; Van Ness Metro Station, Washington, DC
  • Crossroads/Trickster I, 2005, Commissioned by the North Carolina Museum of Art [14]

Public Art Spaces (Public and Corporate Commissions)[edit]

  • United States Embassy (Freetown, Sierra Leone)[15]
  • New York Transit Authority (Metro NYC)[15]
  • Spoleto Festival USA (Charleston, SC)[15]
  • Arco Chemical Co. ( Newton, PA)[15]
  • Cleveland Public Art (OH)[15]
  • Phillip Morris Corp. (Washington, DC)[15]
  • North Carolina Museum of Art (Raleigh, NC)[15]
  • Johns Hopkins State Health Laboratory (Baltimore, MD)[15]


  1. ^ a b c d Farris, Phoebe. Women Artists of Color: A Bio-critical Sourcebook to 20th Century Artists in the Americas. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999. Print.
  2. ^ Lewis, JoAnn (June 2, 1996). ""It's what's Outside that Counts; Martha Jackson-Jarvis's New Approach Puts Her Art on the Other Side of the Wall."". The Washington Post.
  3. ^ Paschall, Valerie (2013-10-08). "Mapping Twelve Stellar Examples of D.C.'s Public Art". Curbed DC. Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  4. ^ a b c "A New Exhibition At Dumbarton Oaks Puts Artist Martha Jackson Jarvis Front and Center". Washington City Paper. Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  5. ^ a b James, Curtia (January–February 2004). "Martha Jackson-Jarvis: The Process of Discovery". Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  6. ^ "Crossroads/Trickster I - NCMALearn". Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  7. ^ a b Shavin, Naomi (April 4, 2018). "A New Exhibition At Dumbarton Oaks Puts Artist Martha Jackson Jarvis Front and Center". Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Swift, Mary. "The Power of One: Martha Jackson Jarvis". Washington Review (February–March 1995).
  9. ^ Gannett News Service (January 4, 1988). ""Order from chaos" would be a fitting motto for ceramic sculptor Martha Jackson-Jarvis". USA Today.
  10. ^ "The Garden Wall". Creative Capital. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  11. ^ Farris, Phoebe (ed.) Women Artists of Color: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook to Artists in the Americas. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999.
  12. ^ Lewis, Samella (2003). African American Art and Artists. Berkely: University of California Press. pp. 282 (fig. 288), 283. ISBN 9780520239296.
  13. ^ Farrington, Lisa (2017). African-American Art: A Visual and Cultural History. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 320–321, fig. 12.10. ISBN 9780199995394.
  14. ^ "Crossroads/Trickster". ArtNC. Retrieved 2014-02-01.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h Rowell, Charles H."Martha Jackson Jarvis." Callaloo, vol. 38 no. 4, 2015, pp. 831-836. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/cal.2015.0119

External links[edit]