Masters: Jane Lackey

Masters: Jane Lackey

Published on Sunday, September 14, 2014. This article appears in the October/November 2014 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Staff
Jane Lackey, Santa Fe, Studio

Lackey in her Santa Fe studio. The artist is interested in circuitry, maps, and networks of all kinds. Portrait: Minesh Bacrania

Connections are central to Jane Lackey’s work: connections with students, connections as a motif within her work, connections with viewers of her art.

Lackey came sideways to her career. In college at UCLA, she was focused on liberal arts and art history. One day, she pulled a California College of Arts and Crafts catalogue off a bookshelf and made a discovery: The school had a textile program. “And it just hit me,” she recalls; “that was what I wanted to do.”

The connection was surprising – but not totally out of the blue. From an early age, she says, “I was someone who learned a lot from touching and understanding that the hand is a kind of index to all kinds of knowledge.” She had enjoyed sewing as a child, looking at quilts, and studying costume history. But until that one moment, she didn’t know she wanted to work in fiber. She “kind of amazingly pulled together a portfolio,” she recalls, and transferred to the school. Later, she earned an MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Lackey spent 17 years building the fiber department at the Kansas City Art Institute. Then she led the fiber department at Cranbrook Academy of Art for the better part of a decade. She teaches now at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Her work appears in the collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Cranbrook Art Museum, and the Wellcome Collection in London, among others.

She has arrived where she has through a combination of hard work and thoughtful evolution. Worried about being a neophyte among art students, she learned to weave the summer before starting at CCAC. Keen to develop the theme of circuitry that has emerged in her work in recent years, she walked a pilgrimage circuit in Japan, from temple to temple, on a residency in 2011. “I spent a lot of time,” she says, “observing and coming back to my small studio apartment and working on drawings that mapped spatial relationships I had experienced.”

Perhaps the supreme connection she has made is to the viewer. “What happens over time, as you show work and people become involved in it, changes you,” she says. “If people are not getting it, then you are going to have to change it.”

And Lackey is thinking even more about the viewer as she explores a growing interest in installations. “I’m interested in pursuing this more,” she says, “creating spaces that people want to be in, and also creating spaces that change their perception of themselves.”