When we discovered the work of Anna Jensen, we knew she'd be a great way to kick off a Wonderfilled 2016: her work is honest, her craft is honed and her paintings inspire a wide range of emotions. A few weeks ago, as we were winding down our year, we asked Anna a few questions. Like her paintings, her interview was honest and poignant.
As we fill the blank pages of a new year with goals and resolutions, we're drawing inspiration from Anna's paintings, resolving to create with honesty and authenticity.
And so, without further ado dear Wonderfilled readers, from the artist herself:
I generally start painting without any conscious intention. A painting can begin as a figure drawing or a family photograph that moves me at that moment. Or I will just start mark making and finger painting to see what memories or feelings are evoked. I go from there.
I was playing with paint loosely on top of a more tightly rendered piece and had this flash of memory from an incident when I was a child on a road trip with my family. The yellow and white splotches I suddenly added to the image represented the mustard and mayonnaise that my father once smeared on my brother's face in an inappropriate attempt to reprimand him. So the innate actions of my hands and the paint brought about this unexpected connection that was personally significant to me and I decided to keep it. It's always comforting with paint to know that you CAN paint over something if you choose to. And I often do. I paint and repaint my surfaces an insane number of times until I stumble—often through great effort—onto that perfect balance of funny and sad. It's a gut thing when I know I've found it. There's no formula. It's both difficult to find and effortless. C'est la vie!
My paintings break my heart and save me at the same time. I think life is so incredibly sad and yet so amazing and wonderful. I love that paradox, although that in itself is gut wrenching. A Foreboding Shadow Befell Her So She Drowned Her Future Sorrows is, at first glance, happy and bright, familial and love filled. But there is a major sadness. A man looking at it in Paris said out loud, "This is like a knife in my heart." It was so touching to hear that he had such a strong response to the image.
This piece is based on a found photograph of my mother holding my little sister in our childhood kitchen as I sit to the side morosely glugging a glass of golden liquid with a double exposure creeping over the left side of the frame. It forebodes trouble to come. My eyes have dark circles around them and I chose to accentuate the red-eye effect in my eyes while removing it from my sister and mom. There is also a spider hanging over my mother's head, likely a leftover Halloween decoration but also adding an eerie sense of imminent danger. My mom died suddenly when she was way too young. It was, of course, a terrible tragedy. It has been very difficult to accept living without her. I had some pretty serious issues with alcohol abuse as a teenager and young adult, so the photo was telling in many ways. I had to make a painting from it.
The patterns in my work most likely stem from these times in my life when I had a living Mom and a more traditional family situation. She decorated with many competing and complimentary patterns. At times, it felt very busy, but there was a certain flow and comfort in the partnering and placement. I'm definitely a nostalgia junky, so things like that really get to me. I can find the ugliest thing drop-dead gorgeous if it evokes a certain feeling – like the feeling of heartbreak in the name of love.
In the earlier days after a big opening, I was so frazzled from the hours of talking to strangers—which immediately followed the concentrated solitary time that went into creating the work—that I hightailed it to a Mexican restaurant to have a little food and a lot of frozen margaritas to try to recover. I found that I didn't leave there feeling much better. As I've become more seasoned, I learned that some downtime simply hanging with my dog is an immediate stabilizer. Exercise and of course more painting helps as well. The social, showing and talking part of this job always leaves me feeling a bit shell-shocked. But, I'm so appreciative of the human connections I make on those occasions. I'm honored and grateful that people show up and make themselves vulnerable to speak up and share their response to the work. It's incredible. This is a mysterious and perplexing "job" to have, and I question it all the time. But, art has existed all this time for a reason. A big reason. So I always come back to realizing the value in staying on this path, however winding.
I moved to Asheville, NC from Brooklyn, NY on January 1st 2009 and spent six years painting in an either frozen or moldy (depending on the season) unfinished living room. Asheville was good to me in many ways and I consider myself to be a part time resident still. But, I currently hang my hat in my hometown of Atlanta, GA. Once my lease is up, though, there's no telling. Maybe New Orleans!