PONTOTOC — Philip Jackson grew up sitting in the pews while his father, a pastor, preached each Sunday.
As his dad addressed the congregation, Jackson would doodle. After being scolded for not paying attention, he began to consider how he could draw while listening and absorbing what was being taught.
His solution was essentially to illustrate the sermon. Jackson would concentrate on the visual image that formed in his mind while his father spoke. The act of drawing out the message became Jackson’s personal way of understanding. He went from listening to truly hearing the Word.
Jackson, 45, is now a world-renowned painter, a professor at the University of Mississippi and pastor at Victory Baptist Church in Pontotoc.
His work has been featured in notable art publications including Art in America, Southwest Art, American Art Collector, and American Artist Magazine, and is a part of permanent museum collections in Evansville and Fort Wayne, Indiana; Huntsville, Alabama; Jackson and Meridian, Mississippi; and featured in private collections throughout the world.
Jackson has been awarded the Mississippi Invitational award from the Mississippi Museum of Art where he traveled Ireland for three weeks painting. He also completed a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Foundation in Monaghan, Ireland, the next year. He is the recipient of three Mississippi Arts Commission grants.
Through his career, Jackson added teaching to painting and preaching on top of both. All three have built upon one another in surprising and unexpected ways.
Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jackson's mother noticed there was something different about the way he saw things. He struggled throughout school, because the way he learned and communicated was through the use of imagery.
"If I couldn't visualize it, you could forget about trying to teach it to me," Jackson said.
He'd always had an interest in drawing and intended to become a graphic designer. He majored in graphic design as an undergraduate student at the Columbus College of Art & Design but realized he most enjoyed illustration.
So, he switched his major to illustration, and while taking extra painting classes to build his skills, he found his true passion.
He said he was given a voice through the “fine art of painting.”
"I enjoyed painting so much that I was no longer interested in illustrating everyone else's ideas," Jackson said.
He realized there were opportunities for artists to establish their own visions within the world of fine arts, and that became his driving force. Painting became his sole focus.
After graduating with a bachelor of fine arts degree in painting, Jackson went to Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, where he earned a master of fine arts.
There's great value in making art for the sake of beauty, but Jackson goes beyond that. The purpose of his work is to challenge the viewer to think deeply about what they’re seeing.
Jackson is a representational artist working primarily in the still life genre, which depicts inanimate objects. But his paintings are "not your grandmother's still life." He uses the tradition of still life to set his work apart, painting familiar objects with subtle added details.
Using recognizable subject matter, something with which anyone can identify, allows viewers to unpack each detail and find more beauty in the piece.
"So they begin to look,” Jackson said. “And as they begin to look, I challenge what they're seeing."
Jackson paints common objects like pieces of fruit, eggshells and even Goldfish crackers — but there’s more to them than meets the eye.
As an undergraduate student, Jackson remembers painting still life over and over and over again, and he wondered why anyone would choose that path. That was until one of his professors, who was painting small objects at a 4-by-8 foot scale, changed his opinion by challenging his perception.
Jackson suddenly realized the value in presenting timeless subjects in fresh ways.
"I was dealing with this subject that had been done thousands of times over, but I wanted to bring something into it that maybe wasn't there before," Jackson said.
Jackson spent a couple of years working at his alma mater, Columbus College of Art & Design, as an admissions officer and painting professor before moving to Oxford in 2006 for a job at the University of Mississippi.
He serves as professor of painting, overseeing the entire painting area at Ole Miss as he teaches beginner- through graduate-level painting courses.
At the outset of his career, Jackson had no interest in teaching. But during graduate school, he took part in an assistantship program which included teaching classes in painting.
During the first semester of teaching, he found that he had more purpose when he returned to the studio to paint. He quickly noticed ways in which the two built upon one another and found that his studio output had doubled from teaching.
After his first year of teaching, he realized he couldn’t separate instruction from art.
"For me, they fueled each other,” he said. “When I was in the studio, I was thinking about the classroom; when I was in the classroom, I was thinking about the studio. And it was this beautiful marriage."
He continues to use concepts taught in classes to improve his own work and often finds himself considering how to teach techniques employed in his painting.
An important aspect of his professorship is approaching the job as an artist first. Jackson wants students to understand that he's someone who works in a studio and makes art, and that he's doing the same things he asks them to do.
"I want my students to know that I'm not on this pedestal thinking that I'm above them," he said. "I want them to realize that I'm in the same trench that they're in, digging the same hole, trying to find the same treasure that they're looking for. I'm right there with them."
Jackson followed in his father's footsteps in 2018, becoming pastor of Victory Baptist Church.
Between his established work as a painter and professor, he was initially wary of accepting the task of leading Victory Baptist as he didn't want to over-commit himself.
But Victory Baptist is a well-established, mature church of around 80 to 100 members, Jackson said, which has allowed him to focus solely on important things like preaching and sharing the gospel.
"This church is one of the most giving churches I've ever been a member of," Jackson said. "I've never seen a church give like this church gives. They have a heart for God and people. When someone comes through the doors of this church, they embrace them."
They've embraced his family, which includes his wife, Nicole and three children: two daughters, Sophia and Julia, and a son, Joshua.
Since taking on the role, Jackson learned that he's a sixth-generation pastor. The desire to serve others has always come natural for him, and with a family legacy like that, it's easy to see why.
"No matter where I've worked, I've always found a place in church to serve," Jackson said. "That's engrained. That's in my heart."
For years, he has used his artwork to talk about the gospel and illustrate it in visual ways. Although he doesn't incorporate overtly religious images into his art, he uses art where there's "something beyond the object" to illustrate his point.
"That mystery is what I start with," Jackson said. "And I build on that."
There are preachers who go straight through the front door when they preach and others who approach their topic at an angle. The latter is Jackson's strategy. He's not seeking to trick anyone, but rather have them see things in a new way.
"People say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when someone can see something, they never forget it," Jackson said.
He starts by pointing out details that people wouldn't pick up on at first.
"What happens is the painting begins to talk to them," Jackson said. "Then you start seeing something else and it's like, ‘Over here!' Then the painting, all of the sudden, becomes alive. So while I'm talking, the painting's talking. You have two speakers working in tandem and the mind's going crazy. The impact of that is pretty strong."
Jackson's artwork has been nationally and internationally recognized, but he said his prayer is to see an equal outreach in sharing the parallel effort between the talent of his hands and the message of the gospel. Those interested in having Jackson share his unique message combining art and the gospel can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Serving as pastor makes him a better professor and painter. He's stronger in other roles because of how he's serving in the church and vice versa.
In the same way that he has teaching art on his mind while painting, he also thinks of sharing the gospel.
"It has to have that sense of mystery and intrigue — a nod to the supernatural," Jackson said of his art. "Something has to happen in that painting that goes beyond my interest in an object. So when I'm painting, I'm thinking about that. It's meditation. I'm praying.”
He prays a similar prayer while reading scripture and studying: "God, allow me to see the text as you have revealed that to the writer."
Jackson quoted composer Robert Schumann, saying "To send light into the darkness of men's hearts — such is the duty of an artist."
Much of Jackson’s art is about light, he said, and how it’s the source that fills the space with atmosphere while revealing the dents, cuts and facets within an object.
He's intrigued by the work of painter Walter Tandy Murch who once said “I paint the air between my eye and the object.” He was less interested in painting the object itself, rather he painted beyond the object, the air between the object and himself.
When Jackson stands behind the pulpit and opens his mouth to preach, the words that flow forth to fill the air between congregants and himself are the sum of every canvas he's covered with paint, every affirmation spoken to a student and every prayer he's uttered to God, whether whispered or rendered with a brush.
TUPELO — Former longtime State Rep. Steve Holland has filed to run for the seat on the Lee County Board of Supervisors currently held by his brother.
Holland, who spent three decades representing the 16th District in the state House of Representatives before being defeated by current Rep. Rickey Thompson, filed for election to the Lee County District 5 Supervisor seat as a Democrat Friday afternoon. His brother, Billy Joe Holland, who isn’t seeking re-election, currently holds the seat.
“I cannot seem to get the spirit of public service out of my system,” Holland said in a written statement. “My goal is simple: I wish to provide positive leadership, up close and personal service and complete transparency to the citizens of the 5th District and Lee County as a whole. … I am healthy, ready to hit the ground running and continue a noteworthy legacy of public service.”
Holland joins a wide field of candidates vying the seat. He’s the second to qualify for the seat; he will face Democrat Richard O. Wilson in the Aug. 8 primary election.
Holland previously said he might run as an Independent, as he did in his last attempt for re-election to the state House of Representatives. He told the Daily Journal Friday that after deliberating, he decided to run as “with the party that brought him to the dance.”
“In the end, I looked at my family heritage, my progressive nature and found it just fits with the Democrats,” he said. “However, I have always been an independent thinker.”
Holland noted that he believes county officials should approach their positions with a nonpartisan lens.
“I spent my 36 years beginning disparaging parties together in the House, I think I can work wonderfully for the Board of Supervisors.”
Republicans running for the seat include Barry Parker, Chris Gillentine, Dakota Gilland and Zachary “Bub” Rock.
Qualifying ends on Feb. 1.
TUPELO – Two weeks after her 5-year-old son died from beatings and burns, a Tupelo mother of five has been charged with capital murder and ordered held without bond.
Tupelo Municipal Court Judge Willie Moore on Friday ordered Brianna Nichole Young, 27, of Gun Club Road, Tupelo, held without bond and bound the case over to the grand jury.
Lee County Coroner Carolyn Green said the state medical examiner's preliminary autopsy the Jan. 15 death of Kaleb Bogan a homicide and said the boy died of “multiple blunt force trauma and thermal injuries.” At the time of his death, police and hospital staff say they noticed a large burn on his upper body, lash marks on his back and burns on his buttocks.
During Young’s initial appearance Friday morning on the upgraded charge, Tupelo police detective Jacob Whitlock said the autopsy report also revealed additional injuries to Bogan.
“The doctor (who performed the autopsy) said there were also broken ribs and a torn rectum,” Whitlock said. “She said there was also a brain bleed and bruising to the scalp on the back of the head.”
Young was initially charged with two counts of child abuse and one count of child deprivation of necessities with substantial harm. She was released on a $100,000 bond the day after she was formally charged.
“She was able to bond out on those charges and didn’t leave. I don’t believe she is a flight risk,” public defender Dennis Farris said while arguing for bond. “The other children have been removed from the home, so they are not at risk. She has the support of her family, so there will not be a problem getting to court.”
Allen said the nature of the charges forced him to deny bond as police continue to investigate “serious allegations of abuse that apparently have been going on for some time.”
“Allowing Miss Young to be free while the investigation is ongoing would hamper the ability of police to determine if others are liable for the child abuse,” Allen said.
Police were called to the Gun Club Road residence for an unresponsive child at 9:44 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 15. Tupelo firefighters were already performing CPR on the child, who was later transferred to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Police and hospital staff noticed a large burn mark on the child’s face, arm and stomach. There were also lash marks on the child's back, injuries to his buttocks, as well as bruising and scarring all over his body.
Young told police the child was burned by bath water about two weeks earlier, but she did not seek medical attention. Young later admitted she whipped the boy with a switch, leaving the lash marks. She initially said the injuries to his rear end were from a bicycle accident.
“She (later) said she hit him with a curling iron on his butt. That’s how he got the burns,” Whitlock said during a Jan. 17 court proceeding.
Police said the boy was autistic and nonverbal. Young, who has been cooperating and talking to police, told the investigator she was having trouble with the child and was overwhelmed. Following Young’s initial arrest, her other four children were removed from the home and placed in the care of family members.
Young was arrested on the child abuse charges on Jan. 15. She had her initial court appearance on the afternoon of Jan. 17. She bonded out of jail to following day at 7 p.m.
Bogan’s autopsy was conducted Tuesday at the state medical examiner's office in Pearl. Following the release of the preliminary report, the charges were upgraded. Young was arrested again and rebooked into the county jail on Jan. 26 at 3:04 p.m.