SIKESTON - Starting Friday and running through the month of December, the Sikeston Depot will feature artwork from a man best known by many for his protest over changes made by the U.S. Mint to his design of the Missouri state quarter.
"Not many artists claim to be under a Secret Service investigation," quipped Paul Jackson of Columbia. "I wear that like a badge of honor."
He explains the "investigation" was actually just a scare tactic response by the Mint for one of his protests in which he put stickers with his original design on the backs of 250,000 quarters. The Mint accused him of defacing currency. "The Secret Service guys actually thought it was funny," Jackson said.
The original design's two figures paddling the canoe "are meant to conjure up images not only of Lewis and Clark, but also Tom and Huck," he explains, paddling along a shimmering river with the St. Louis Gateway Arch faint in the background as "a vision of things to come in the future."
To Jackson, the Mint's version as it appears on the quarter resembles Larry, Curley and Moe on a rubber raft paddling between stalks of giant broccoli with a French fry-shaped Arch straddling a rerouted Missouri River.
Jackson confirmed he "will be bringing the original design for Missouri's quarter," a color watercolor on an notebook-sized page, about seven inches in diameter. "I'm also going to bring the four foot quarter I rolled through Washington," he added, noting the quarter is actually only about three and a half feet tall.
The show is not all about the state quarter, however. Considered by many to be a modern master of watercolor, Jackson has gained international recognition for his work. His paintings bring critical acclaim and top awards from the highest ranks of his profession including the American Watercolor Society, Allied Artists of America and the Rocky Mountain Watercolor Society.
Jackson is also the author and illustrator of the best-selling "Painting Spectacular Light Effects in Watercolor" published by North Light Books, the world's largest instructional art book publisher.
His work was featured in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal and hangs in collections such as the Missouri Governor's Mansion and State Capitol in addition to private collections around the world, but one of his most visible pieces and rewarding pieces is "Tiger Spot," the world's largest single-image smalti mosaic mural.
"It's a type of glass tile we had made over in Venice," Jackson said. "They're about the size of a Chicklet - smaller than a Jolly Rancher."
The same family has been producing the tiles for over 1,000 years from the only glass factory remaining on the Venice's main island. "The type of materials I'm using are the best in the world," Jackson said.
Located on University of Missouri campus in front of Ellis Library, the 30-foot diameter tiger face took 420,000 tiles in 64 different colors. "Two and a half tons of them," he said.
A core of 60 community volunteers including eight Mizzou art students - one of which was Megan Boyer, daughter of Sikeston City Councilman Phil Boyer - assisted Jackson with the project.
The mosaic is "art for the people by the people," Jackson said. "We had over 2,000 school children come through and put tiles in with us."
In addition to being a high point in his career, the project turned out to be "a real boost for Columbia," Jackson said, as it was unveiled one month after Sept. 11, 2001. "We'd been working all summer, all year, putting it together," Jackson recalled, "and while the rest of the world was reeling from the events of 9-11, we were coming together for this creation."
Overall, the Depot show will include "quite a cross section of stuff I've done," Jackson said, ranging from older illustration work to masterwork pieces: "large, incredibly detailed watercolors."
While the quarter design was largely symbolic, Jackson said the Depot show will include several Lewis and Clark paintings that are "as historically accurate as we can get."
The show will also include a new painting done in Alaska called "Yukon Gold" and several pieces from New York City including "Manhattan Memories" in which the World Trade Center towers can be seen faintly in the background.
"A Glimpse at the Gate" was painted around 1998 from sketches he made during a visit at age 17. "I was thrown out of the Vatican three times for sliding under ropes to get my sketches," he recalled.
The Depot is open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1-4 p.m. Sunday.