Way: a journey through art

Tabetha DeGroot— Staff Writer 

“Have you ever flown to a kingdom made of clouds? 

Have you walked across a sea of glass to the country on the far side?”

These questions are asked of the reader on a page posted outside Danikka Jackson’s senior art show.

The entrance to the Ribbons Academic Complex is now accented with tree branches and sketches of nymph-like faces. Canvases bursting with color fill the hallway where the heart of the show lies. Paint, melted crayon, and even glow-sticks are incorporated into them. 

The show, titled “Way,” has been in the works since Jackson’s underclassmen years; a culmination of all her time making art at Dordt. She has been working on it throughout this year and the last. 

“It’s been quite a while in coming” she said. 

The show features mythical pencil sketches, paint on canvas, and a few collages that incorporate multiple mediums. There are also pages of text displayed next to the artwork that tell snippets of a story as the viewer moves deeper into the show.

“The theme is three-fold,” Jackson said, “The first part is like a warning, showing how there’s a lot of hypocrisy in society. The second part is a lament for what has been lost because of the blindness and hypocrisy. And then the last part is hope—a journey to something better.” 

Professor Matt Drissell has been Jackson’s advisor through her four years at Dordt and has seen her artwork grow and change.

“Danikka came to Dordt with a very skillful rendering ability and a vivid imagination,” he said, “But she had a narrow understanding of what art-making could be.” 

She has come a long way in studies and experience, however. According to Drissell, “She has stretched herself in so many ways…freshman-year-Danikka would be shocked to see what senior-year-Danikka created!”

 The show has many whimsical elements, like tree branches wrapped in wire, that create an enchanted forest mood. The story excerpts and scattered bits of text through the art itself give the allusion of being sucked into a story. 

“Her sketches live next to her paintings, which live next to her writings, which live next to her sculpture works,” Drissell said, “To see them all come together is astonishing. The gallery becomes another world, a place to journey through and explore. That mature understanding of art-making is rarely found in undergraduate art students.”

“A lot of different things inspire me: literature like Tolkien’s works, music, the Bible.” Jackson said, “The randomest things inspire me and sometimes it’s really significant, sometimes it just helps with a little detail.” 

Jackson enjoys all types of mediums, but her favorite is drawing—mostly because pencil and paper were what was accessible growing up in Oaxaca, Mexico. 

“I have to watch myself because sometimes I’ll say I grew up in an orphanage.”

Jackson grew up in a missionary family who lived and worked with the orphans of Oaxaca. “So, I literally grew up in an orphanage, but I wasn’t an orphan.” 

Oaxaca is surrounded by a warm desert landscape. Jackson ate rice and beans, homeschooled, and played with the children at the orphanage. She heard about Dordt from a recruit at a small Christian school where her mother volunteered at the library. 

“I wasn’t even considering college,” she said, “but my mom heard [the recruiter] talk and she was like ‘huh, that sounds pretty cool.’”

While Jackson had been to the United States before for vacations, she experienced some culture shock when arriving at Dordt.

“Drinking fountains are really cool!” she said, “Down there you can’t get water for free.” 

Switching from hot sun and cactus plants to ice and prairie grass has given Jackson an interesting perspective on life. 

“I’ve been from one culture coming to another and I’m not really a part of either one,” she said, “[I’ve been] able to take a step back and see everything from a distance…realizing not everybody sees things the same way.”

Jackson’s senior show will be up until graduation, and many of the pieces are for sale. After graduation, she plans to go back home to Santa Maria del Tula, Mexico, where her family is now located. She hopes to teach art—both virtually and at the small Christian school where she grew up.

“I’m also saving up for a horse,” she said with a grin.

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