Stefanie Jackson, Bluest Eye

Stefanie Jackson, Bluest Eye, 1999, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 inches (Georgia Museum of Art)

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Key points

  • Jackson uses a surrealistic approach to convey the impact of physical and emotional racial violence on Black girls and the dreams they may conjure to escape or gain freedom from such violence. The surrealistic features of the painting include: disembodied or dematerializing forms; the blurring of boundaries between interior and exterior space; and the externalization of psychological tensions between beauty and ugliness, child and adult. 
  • Many of the pictorial details in the painting are references to the characters and plot of Toni Morrison’s 1970 novel of the same name. While created almost 30 years apart, Jackson’s and Morrison’s works reflect a broader commitment by Black creatives to repossess the image of Black women and girls, who have been largely absent from the dominant history of visual art and literature.

Go deeper

Discover more about Stefanie Jackson

Toni Morrison’s Profound and Unrelenting Vision, a reflection on The Bluest Eye fifty years after its publication. (By Hilton Als in The New Yorker, February 3, 2020)

See one graphic designer’s efforts at redesigning and Decolonizing Banania 

Read about why mammy jars are still collected (The New York Times, March, 2019)

I Want to Explore the Wonder of What It Is to be a Black American (Jenna Wortham in conversation with Simone Leigh, Amy Sherald, and Lorna Simpson; The New York Times Magazine, October 8, 2019)

More to think about

Both Stefanie Jackson’s painting and the Toni Morrison novel it references prompt us to reflect on a racialized American society. In particular, we are forced to consider how racial trauma around identity, perceptions of beauty, and representation is perpetuated. How do you see this reality portrayed in Jackson’s painting and in our society today?

Explore the diverse history of the United States through its art. Seeing America is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.