After two years of nonstop chaos and gigantic cosmic shifts, it feels like the world and those who live on it are finally redefining and restructuring themselves and their lives.
Andrew Jensdotter’s newest exhibition, From Eden Dioramas, currently at K Contemporary, is perhaps the most parallel and reassuring representation of the global resurrection in which we are currently living. His works de him deal with the human struggle of attempting to find home, safety and belonging while simultaneously casting aside ideas of perfection and paradise.
“I am in a transition in my life — having gone through a divorce, relocation, changing states and going to a place where I literally know nobody and really looking at what creates a sense of place and home and security,” Jensdotter says. “Each of the pieces in this exhibition tell a part of that story. It’s a moving of energy and the agitation and discomfort around feeling ungrounded and uprooted. The work brings me back to early childhood asking questions like, what is home? What is security? What is comfort?
Originally from Logan, Utah, the 46-year-old visual artist recently moved from Denver down to Embudo, New Mexico. “It’s a place where you are allowed to be whoever you need to be,” he says. Jensdotter found a property near the Rio Grande river where his three children can swim; where he can wake up and drink a cup of coffee as he walks to his studio.
In From Eden DioramasJensdotter presents carved paintings alongside a series of collage and sculptural work all of which have strong Biblical messages.
Growing up in the Mormon church (though he is no longer practicing), Jensdotter says that “it’s a tendency of mine as a painter being brought up in a religion that focuses very much on perfection—spiritual perfection and perfection in a community—to expunge that.”
He goes on to quote Richard Diebenkorn, an abstract expressionist, who says, “All great art is one part chance, one part surgery, one part poetry.” Jensdotter extrapolates this sentiment onto his own creative process.
“I recognize that chance is a tool that can be utilized to take away control. Control in life can be oppressive, contrary to beauty and contrary to harmony.”
His artistic process focuses on putting himself utterly and completely at the moment. The British painter Cecily Brown (one of Jensdotter’s favorites) says that, “painting is a way of staying in the moment forever,” and those ideas of meditation, focus and time are present throughout the show.
For this exhibition, Jensdotter uses floral motifs to question the ideas of Eden and perfection.
“The thing about flowers is they are beautiful for a very short period of time. You can’t keep flowers forever, but I’m playing with the idea that maybe you can in a painting,” he says. Flowers also reference paradise and Eden. An idea I grew up with in the Mormon religion was that Eden was a place of perfection but required a degree of worthiness. I’ve been putting that to question and making an inquiry around what perfection is.”
In his signature carved paintings, Jensdotter paints a layer with a specific idea or content in mind—in this case flowers. He then paints over it with hundreds more layers of the same content (flowers) until he is finally satisfied. He then uses a razor blade to carve into the paint and, through expulsion, reveals the history of the painting.
“The final image is very smooth and flat, but there are traces of all those images being shown simultaneously. The act of carving creates a composite layer and creates immortal flowers. All of these flowers that I paint get obliterated so they are imperfect.” he says. “You can look at a small part of the painting, and there is so much detail. As you step back, flowers emerge. As you step back more, they become monoliths. I really enjoy that space can be within space can be within space.”
The collages in the exhibition are created by a similar process. Using pieces of old magazines and mixed media, he glues them all together and grinds them down to create a composite image of paradise. In his piece of himtitled lonelyJensdotter uses a magazine about the desert to reference Mormon scripture.
“Adam and Eve were sent out to the ‘lone and dreary wilderness,’ and that’s on point for me. I’m down here in the desert in the wilderness, and it’s dusty and not the greenery I’m used to. Yet, there is beauty.”
Jensdotter’s “Desolation” pieces (self-described as “hanging garbage”) are a delightfully whimsical, sculptural addition to the show and speak to the beauty found in erosion.
“They are made beautiful through time and through the destruction of the object, and that’s a big part of the work I make,” he explains. “When you paint you are adding. When you carve you are subtracting. And it takes a degree of control away from me and produces something that is better for it. That’s something nature does so effortlessly—no control, just pure process that nature does through erosion and time.”
Art is a wonderful medium through which to pose questions and explore universal, unresolved feelings.
Jensdotter’s work does just that.
“It’s less about outcome and goal, and it’s more about experience,” he says. “And at this point in my life, I’m embracing that fully.”
Head to K Contemporary to check out Dioramas from Eden on display until August 13, 2022.