Finding clarity in the abstract
In Wilsonville artist Lisa Jensen's view, exacting realism often does not elicit emotional connection.
In her exhibit at the Wilsonville Public Library, which runs through December, Jensen's landscape art is peppered with abstract and surprising twists.
"It's hard to be super-emotional and super-realistic on the painting," she said.
Jensen's artwork features mountains amid swirling clouds and a mountain range with notes of red dotting the mountain and the sky. Much of her work is inspired by the purple mountains and straw fields in Utah and the green landscape in Oregon.
"It's the nostalgia of the landscape. 'Oh that looks just like where I grew up.' We so identify with those color combos from nature," she said.
For most of Jensen's life, creating art has been a fun hobby and teaching it a fulfilling career.
After receiving a master's degree in musical education from Brigham Young University, Jensen became an outreach coordinator for the Springville Museum of Art in Utah, where she tried to inspire students of all ages to take interest in art and advised teachers about the best ways to teach the subject. Jensen took a break from teaching to raise her family and then moved to Hillsboro eight years ago. She moved to Wilsonville two years ago and teaches art classes out of her home.
Jensen used to paint more realistic-looking landscapes, which she enjoyed but found occasionally exasperating.
"Sometimes that would be frustrating because I was a perfectionist and it wouldn't be exactly what I wanted," Jensen.
About five years ago, a friend asked her to attempt a more abstract painting. Initially reticent, Jensen realized she enjoyed incorporating abstract elements into her work.
"I tried it and loved it," Jensen said. "It was freeing to think about colors and textures and not get bogged down in the details."
And whereas she used to paint with a small brush, she now scrapes paint with oil wax onto a wood panel with a palette knife or spatula.
"If you put a big spatula or palette knife in your hands it forces you to not be detailed and do big areas of color," she said.
While she said typical compliments from her more realistic work mostly consisted of "I like the way you drew the snow," people now say her work reminds them of a particular place or moment in their lives.
"I've heard people have totally strong responses. 'Oh it reminds me of a time in my life, this trial (they went through),'" Jensen said.
Jensen's pieces also include captions such as "She remembered the pull of the sky" or "Her path home is layered in beauty" because she thinks they help engage onlookers. The captions start with "she" or "her" because the paintings derive from Jensen's point of view.
"A lot of people don't know how to look at abstract art. It's intimidating," she said. "If I can guide them a bit through what I'm seeing it makes people stop and say 'Oh, interesting' even if they don't see that. It makes people pause and connect people to the artwork.'"
Now that Jensen's children are in school, she has more time to devote to art and hopes to gain more of a following. Before the Wilsonville Library exhibit, she displayed art at Lakewood Center for the Arts in Lake Oswego and West Elm in Portland. To view more of Jensen's work, visit her Instagram page: @lisajensenart.