Jensen in the Tied Jumpsuit with her work "Lighter, Later" - approximately 80" x 80", 2015-2017, wool and wool blend fabric from clothing, cotton, and stoneware.
Welcome to our new installment Elise Ballegeer WOMEN, where we feature inspiring independent women around us who embody the Elise Ballegeer ethos. First up is artist Kristen Jensen who recently had a solo show at MILLER contemporary in the LES. Below is our Q&A concerning her art, personal style and pivotal career moments.
Kristen Jensen, Knot I and Knot II, 5”x7”, 2017, silver gelatin print mounted to aluminum.
Can you share a little bit about your background — where you are from, and what your childhood was like.
I moved around quite a bit growing up, living 4-5 years in different states in the west and midwest (though I went to high school in NJ). I think that may have some effect on why I have stayed put in NYC for so long! As a result of moving so much, I think I tended to be more introverted, introspective, and sensitive. I was always a creative person in terms of loving to draw and I was a voracious reader. I don't come from a particularly creative family, so I wasn't exposed to art museums and galleries until high school. As a result, I feel like I grew to appreciate the beauty in the quotidian.
What do you feel has been the biggest step or pivotal moment to get you where you are now?
Likely choosing to go back to graduate school after getting sucked into worked full time for 8 years in the city. My studio practice had taken a backseat to my jobs. Choosing to apply and go back to school reaffirmed my commitment to being an artist. Also, the community I found through going back to school in the city was a huge part of my growth.
Like many of us, you also have an additional job outside of being an artist. Have you come up with any systems for how to efficiently manage the two at once? How do you switch between two mindsets?
Not really! I have a fairly new job where I am basically managing the life and business for someone else.....I am hoping that this trickles into my own life soon! I have just grown to realize that the life of being an artist is so nebulous that it helps for me to have a steady, more grounded day job. It makes me more productive.
Jensen in Tied Jumpsuit with her work "Weighty Ornament III" - 47” x 21” x 21”, 2017, stoneware, denim, metal and cotton fabric from discarded pants.
Miller Contemporary is a female only gallery, how important do you feel galleries like this are in advancing female artists and why?
I think it is important because statistically white men still dominate the art world in terms of visibility and support.
Your work always strikes me as being very emotional, painfully comforting: a fragile vessel being hugged by a giant denim totem; a braided rug of loved and worn t-shirts knotted with sharp ceramic objects. Do you think much about what the visitor will take out of experiencing your work?
I do in a sense. I do put a lot of physicality and emotion into my work...it is very personal and close to me. But it is comprised of emotions and ideas that are relatable. I think this is why I sometimes choose accessible and/or humble materials. And I like to believe that this aura is visible or is communicated to the viewer. There are a number of complicated ideas and layers to my work but I think anyone can take something away from it.
When did you start incorporating textiles? Do you feel like they are now an integral part of your current and future work?
I have used textiles in my work before...but not quite in the same way. I have always been very attuned to the materials I choose in general, especially fabric. I think the way in which I am using textiles now came about organically and is a good complement to the ceramic medium. I would definitely like to continue to use in the future, hopefully making strides in my sewing skills and experimenting with dying.
Jensen in the Muscle Top with her work "Lighter, Later" - approximately 80" x 80", 2015-2017, wool and wool blend fabric from clothing, cotton, and stoneware.
We’ve talked a lot about clothing and the ideal uniform in the past, how would you describe your personal style, and why is the concept of a uniform important to you?
My style is generally simple and subtle and has been refined or the years. I believe in excellent design/concept and materials (which come to think of it is the art I tend to favor). I like the idea of a personal uniform because it frees up a lot of mental space for other things yet it can still be read a very personal.
What are some of the themes at the forefront of your life right now?
Simultaneous strength and fragility, embracing unpredictability and the beauty within that. Noticing what generally goes unnoticed (whether it is an experience, a gesture, etc) and elevating it.
Do you have fear or hope for the future?
It depends on the day (but I lean more towards hope)!
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Kristen has work up through the end of August at MILLER.
MILLER is a contemporary art exhibition space located in Manhattan's Lower East Side. It is a partnership between founder Christopher Miller (collector and gallerist), and associate directors Ala Dehghan (artist) and Valentina Van de Weghe. The gallery focuses its program on giving solo exhibitions to influential women artists who are not represented by any commercial galleries. Our mission is to honor the legacy of Robert Miller Gallery, where Christopher's parents strove to establish the careers of several important women artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Louise Bourgeois, Lee Krasner, Patti Smith, Joan Mitchell, Alice Neel, Georgia O’Keeffe, Diane Arbus, and Eva Hesse.