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Ms. Jackson in her Brooklyn studio. Credit: Christopher Gregory for The New York Times

Ms. Jackson in her Brooklyn studio. Credit: Christopher Gregory for The New York Times

For these eight first-time artists participating in the biennial, it’s a surefire résumé builder. But it also exposes them to heightened scrutiny.

Tomashi Jackson
“The comfort I find is in making the work.”

For a painter, Tomashi Jackson is something of a policy nerd.

“I have a compulsion to address issues of public concern,” she said. In her studio in the Brooklyn Army Terminal, there were history books and images of people who lost their homes in New York — some in the 19th century, when Seneca Village was razed to become part of Central Park; some recently, under a controversial policy known as third-party transfer.

Ms. Jackson’s paintings in progress integrated these images and built them into installations using Mylar, PVC strips, and a bodega-like awning. Two will be in the Biennial; others are now in a solo show at the Tilton Gallery in New York.

Raised in South Los Angeles, Ms. Jackson, 39, was a muralist in the Bay Area before attending the Cooper Union and the Yale School of Art. In between, she did a design-oriented master’s degree at M.I.T. that led her to Harvard policy classes. The methods helped her grasp, for instance, why generations of women in her family were domestic workers.

“This dry, distant research could help fill in narratives that implicate me,” she said.

Recently, Ms. Jackson has made paintings inspired by court rulings on school desegregation. She is partly in search of a visual language to convey law and policy, she said. But she is also processing legacies of oppression through technique.

“The comfort I find is in making the work,” she said, “and what it shows me through its material evolution.”