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Steve Jensen Takes Viewers on a Maritime Journey as Ketchum Gallery Celebrates Anniversary
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Wednesday, February 8, 2023
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

A rusted-looking anchor found on a Seattle beach comprises the body of a boat that sits upright with the help of a chain dangling from the ceiling of Friesen+Lantz Gallery.

Its sail canvas is replaced with plastic refuse containing beer caps, Starbucks litter, syringes and a biohazard label that environmentally conscious artist Steve Jensen found on the beaches and streets of Seattle. It appears ageless, as if dredged from unknown depths instead of being made of recycled glass, metal and other found objects.

As with all of his works it offers glimpses into our cultural past. It takes what we discard today and makes it sacred and beautiful for tomorrow. And, as with several of the pieces in Jensen’s new exhibition, it offers Jensen’s take on climate change.

“He never cuts down a tree to create his work. He uses found objects in everything he does—and he does everything from bronze to painting, carving, welding and fusing,” said Gallery Owner Yanna Lantz.   “His creations emit a sacred presence across time and space, and this particular piece makes you think about our impact on the environment.”

Jensen considers his work a journey. And the allusion to journey offered by his 24 pieces in this collection  has come to represent Lantz’s year-long journey as a gallery owner, as well. She’ll throw an anniversary celebration for Jensen and his work from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, at Friesen+Lantz, 320 1st Ave. N., in Ketchum.

There’ll be music, wine and nibbles. And Lantz and Jensen will offer brief remarks at 6 p.m.

There’ll also be a Painting Party from 3 to 5 p.m. today—Wednesday, Feb. 8. Visitors will be able to enjoy drinks and art talk while they watch Jensen paint his signature swirls on the walls of the gallery to complete the immersive exhibition.

“This is the biggest show for one artist I’ve ever done,” said Lantz. “Steve is the artist with whom I started my personal collection in 2017. I got a red porthole of his that I look at every day. It’s a real grounding work—a touchstone. Each of my four staff members has a piece of his—that’s testament to the power of his art.”

Lantz, who started her life in Sun Valley as a co-founder of The Spot theatrical company, starts this new exhibition in dramatic fashion by displaying a yard-tall bronze piece to greet visitors as they enter the gallery.

Its positioning prohibits visitors from seeing the entire exhibition in one glance. Instead, they have to pick whether they want to turn right or left to wander through the exhibition.

“My job is to turn this gallery into the world of Steve Jensen,” she said.  “This is the first time I’ve created an exhibition featuring works from one artist that spans the entire gallery.”

Lantz turns left, a path that takes her past five portholes that Jensen salvaged. Jensen has turned each into works of art by painting oil on wood inside each porthole. They seem to be telling visitors that they are setting out on a maritime journey.

Next stop: A piece called “Canoe Adrift” made out of recycled wood with green molten glass inside that resembles ocean water from some angles.

“Steve comes from a long line of Norwegian fishermen. And for Steve the boat is a symbol of a journey, whether through this life or next,” said Friesen. “He lost his mother and father and partner very close together, and he worked through his grief by making something beautiful. One of the things he did was to make a boat for his parents’ ashes and bury them at sea.”

“The boat is a haven, a vessel of transport—meant to symbolize a journey into the unknown…perhaps to the other side or from an old life to the new,” added Jensen. “I want my viewers to contemplate what the voyage means to them.”

Jensen’s boats reflect the influence of his travels to places like Egypt, Kenya, Tahiti, India, China, Thailand, Antarctica and Iceland.

“Drifting Vessel” is a large carved wall piece in which Jensen has carved the swirls seen in Polynesian and other cultures. He created it with the tools of his father and grandfather, both fishermen and boat makers.

Jensen also carved “Canoe in the Fishnets,” leaving tangled fishing lines carved onto a recycled wood pallet. “Eat or be Eaten” was carved on a recycled circular table, the fish bones portrayed in cyclical fashion.

And three different carved works titled “Water Canoe Red,” “Water Canoe Silver” and “Water Canoe Orange” feature little hiding places where one could stick something like a small plant pot.

“The Red Angled Boat” is colored with resin to make Jensen’s signature color.

The anvil-like “Saw Tooth Canoe” was created from two saws he found while walking the beach near a construction site. Thick angular chunks of molten glass in which he has embedded rings and nails sit inside, reflecting prism-like light and resembling water that is filling a sinking ship.

“It’s titled ‘The Ship is Sinking.’ It asks: What are we going to do about the environment? Are we going to fix it? Or, are we going to go down with the ship?” said Lantz.

The showstopper piece is a 69-by-105-inch piece called “Two Ships that Pass in the Starry, Starry night.” Created on a recycled cedar fence, it features swirly circles at the top that evoke the idea of Van Gogh’s “Starry, Starry Night” with a carved moon set off to the side. Stylized waves and water carvings on the bottom even evoke thoughts of a whale’s tale.

Lantz said part of her mission is to make art accessible. This exhibition does because of its many forms and because—egad!—it’s okay to reach out and touch it.

“I was surprised how many people have asked: Can I come in? How much does it cost to see the exhibit?” she said. “Art is for everyone and, unlike theater, you can take a piece home with you. I’m trying to make art accessible by creating more experiential exhibits, adding music….

“During this past year we created Idaho’s first NFT exhibition and we embraced the younger generation by going on Tik Tok,” she added. “Now, this exhibition is a pinnacle of my career.”

DID YOU KNOW?

Sun Valley gallery owners will open their doors for a February Gallery Walk from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17.

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