From Points West magazine
Originally published in Fall 1999
By Harry Jackson, Guest Author
Ed. note, 2014: The Buffalo Bill Center of the West, which is currently celebrating what would have been contemporary artist Harry Jackson’s 90th birthday, celebrated his 75th with a reception in 1999. Jackson spoke at the reception, and his remarks were reprinted in Points West that fall. That article follows.
Curator’s Note, by Sarah Boehme: Artist Harry Jackson, whose works of art have been an integral part of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center’s collections since prior to the founding of the Whitney Gallery of Western Art, observed his 75th birthday on April 18, 1999. The Center celebrated Jackson’s life and career with a reception on May 14, 1999. More than 300 patrons, collectors, and friends gathered in honor of Jackson. Two recent gifts to the Center’s collection, an early abstract painting from Jackson’s New York period and his bronze The Trapper, were introduced at the event. Jackson presented his unique views of art, human history, and the cosmos in an address to the audience, which we share with the readers of Points West, by courtesy of the author.
We include Al Simpson’s remarks introducing Harry Jackson at his birthday celebration:
“Harry Jackson’s remarks always show the spark, the light, and the fire of my old and dear friend, Harry. We have shared much, fought much, played much, loved much, lived much… and I love the guy. Kinda nice to have a National Treasure who’s also a treasured friend! God bless you.”
Harry Jackson’s talk at the Center’s Celebration of his 75th Birthday:
My joyous thanks to all my dear friends and family for gathering here at Buffalo Bill’s eternal campfire on the Stinking Water River in the center of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, in order to celebrate my first 75 years on our tiny glorious planet Earth. In particular, I wish to thank my dear friends, Peg Coe, Sarah Boehme, Byron Price, and the Honorable Al “Blacksnake” “High-Pockets” Simpson, for arranging this celebration for a dirty-old, broke-down, gut sprung seer-artist. There is nothing special about being a seer-artist. It is basic to all humans.
Every single individual human is conceived, gestated, and born as a seer-artist. The Infinite-Cosmic-Spirit, that some of us call GOD, is the original seer-artist, and each of us, male and female equally, is created in GOD’s seer-artist image. Most humans remain amateur seer-artists with only a very few becoming celebrators. One of these few celebrators was an Iowa boy called William Frederick Cody. Bill Cody was extraordinarily effective at being a Globe-embracing, eternally inspiriting seer-artist. Buffalo Bill saw into our Globe’s pre-Cambrian beginning and into our post-Magellan, post-Bill Gates, Global future, at one and the same moment. The seer-artists he will never see beyond are the creators of our American Declaration of Independence, our U.S. Constitution, our Bill of Rights, all of its additional amendments and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Buffalo Bill, ignoring our nation’s ingrained racial and gender prejudices, seeing the oneness of all humans, organized his Rough Riders of the World accordingly, and then led them around our Globe. And Bill paid women and men equally. He founded a town in the center of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, dammed the Stinking Water River to make a great reservoir that helps irrigate over 200,000 acres, brought in the railroad, built the still operating Irma Hotel, started the Cody Enterprise newspaper and the new town’s first house of worship, Christ Church.
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center will, through the imminent realization of its fifth museum (devoted to local natural history) touch upon the creation and evolution of our planet. Our local area that the new natural history museum will celebrate is the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem which contains our planet Earth’s largest, most active geothermal caldera and the headwaters of most of the major rivers west of the Mississippi that drain into the Pacific and the Gulfs of Mexico and California. Therefore, our local natural history is of Global significance. All other world-class collections of art, artifact, geology, and ecology gather in their items from all points on Earth, while the Buffalo Bill Historical Center sits in the very middle of what it archives and illuminates. It is the most current notably-unique manifestation of the timeless, seer-artist, Buffalo Bill. Cody, Wyoming’s Buffalo Bill Historical Center will chronicle the unbroken track, beginning with our planet Earth’s creation, and passing thru the development of dreamer-seer-artist-toolmaker-hunter-gatherer-warrior-herder-farmer-communicating-civilization-building present day human beings.
Like all other artist-seer kids, I loved making all kinds of marks and doodles. For me, it beat hell out of formal elementary schooling. I kept on making marks with pencils and colors while drinking in the wondrous works in the Chicago Art Institute, the Field Museum of Natural History, the University of Chicago’s Breasted Museum of Ziggurat Sun Temples from Ur and Egyptian Pyramids, and the wonderful Frederic Remington bronzes and paintings in the Harding Museum.
In 1938, I came to Wyoming and on to the Marine Corps in 1942, where I continued to paint and draw during my spare moments. Some of my art has ended up in the Whitney Gallery of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Peg Coe’s mother, my dear departed friend, Effie Shaw, got me to donate the first one, The Trail Driver, a 7-foot canvas. My life-long friend, Cal Todd, modeled for it in 1956. I’m grateful that so many of my works are now in the Center’s ever more significant collection.
And finally, in closing, I wish to share one of my deepest insights. Not far beneath the bloody pre-meditated slaughter of trusting innocents by our very own school-age kids, the butchery in Central Africa, Borneo, Ireland, Washington, D.C., and Kosovo; the Middle-Eastern, Russian, Chinese, Indonesian, and North Korean instability; the high teen-age drug abuse, suicide, and murder in Wyoming that tops the list of all our states. Eternal shame, eternal damnation on all of us so called grown up, responsible parents and elders!! I wish to bear witness that not far beneath our blind-Global-madness, lives a very large, vast community of sane-happy-balanced-loving-silently-joyously-sacrificing-responsible humans of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages. They are our constant, silent, unnoticed, unnamed, unsung heroes. Who, thank God-Allah-Buddha, far, far out number the few self-anointed, power-mad-demigods and copy-cat-thugs, that range in age from five to ninety.
In the very midst of this slaughter-house, ordinary and extraordinary joyous, playful life goes on as always. There is simple luminous right and heartless evil wrong. Each and every one of us, with no exception, is an inextricable meld of both of these extremes. And it is up to each and every one of us to frankly, unsparingly and prayerfully face ourselves squarely and sort ourselves out, through our own consciences and our own insights, and become Cosmically-life-enhancing rather than Cosmically-life-destroying.
All of us: humans, microbes, mountains, dogs, air, fish, water, birds, and horses, are equal children of one-single-divine-infinite-cosmic-spirit. This eternal-cosmic-spirit is called by many names. Some of us call it God, Jehovah, Allah, Altjeringa, the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mother, the “still small voice within,” the Atman, the Sun, the Son, Krishna, the Christ, Brama, Buddha, Mithra, or Mazda. No matter the name, or one’s particular rites of worship, the one-eternal-all-pervading-cosmic-spirit constantly shows us all the way.
Let’s welcome in the third millennium with a good of belly rumblin’, cloud-shatterin’, rip-roarin’, frontier yell!!!
(c) Harry Jackson, 1999