Renowned for his mesmerizing series of paintings, “The Porch People,” the late artist A.B. Jackson was influenced by Rembrandt. His work was gently touched with melancholy. After Jackson died, then Old Dominion President Alfred B. Rollins Jr. wrote that he “had the ability to capture a timeless nature in a scene and to give universality to his subjects.”
“Seeing is my religion,” Jackson once said.
The son of an Irish mother and black father, he earned two art degrees from Yale in the mid-1950s. Art, he believed, transcended race. When he came to the newly desegregated South it was to teach art, not to fight for civil rights, although he became its quiet foot soldier. Denied entry to the Virginia Beach Boardwalk Art show in 1962 because of his race, he won best-in-show in 1966. In 1967, after teaching 10 years at Norfolk State, he joined Old Dominion as a full professor, becoming its first black faculty member.
President Lyndon B. Johnson owned Jackson pieces. So have museums, universities and other institutions. His book, As I See Ghent: A Visual Essay, was published in 1979.
After his untimely death in 1981, at age 55, the Chrysler Museum held a three-site retrospective exhibition of his work. A tribute by a local television station was called “Wow, Look at That,” one of his trademark catch phrases.