I am grateful for this opportunity to share my life and art practice with you. Special thanks to the Creative Pinellas Staff and the esteemed panelists who made this grant possible. It is truly an honor to be a part of this incredible group of creative beings. Congratulations to you all! I am excited to see what you create!
For those of you who are not already familiar with me and my work I am using this first blog post to introduce myself and provide some background and context for my practice, explorations (obsessions) and artworks I will be sharing throughout the grant period. I have included my official bio and general artist statement below.
This grant is very exciting! It will allow me to focus on deepening and expanding my practice in a way I have not been able to do for several years. Throughout the grant period I will be sharing insights into the evolution of my current practice, including: personal and family history & mythology, primary cultural and scientific influences, the chronological development of multiple bodies of work, and the hopes and dreams I have for the expansion of my life and artistic practice both during the next several months and the next several years.
If you are interested in seeing my artwork, listening to interviews, watching artist talks etc, please visit my website at www.kennyjensen.com or instagram @kennyjensenartist. In addition, I currently have work on view in “Engulfed” an environmentally focused group exhibition made up of engaging work from regional and local artists at Gallery 221 on the HCC Dale Mabry campus curated by Amanda Poss and Sarah Howard. If you are unable to make it to see the exhibition in person, I will be posting documentation to social and dedicating one of my blog posts to sharing it:)
What is a Cosmos Collector?
“Cosmos Collector” is one of the names/descriptions I came up with years ago to help me better understand for myself and to be able to better communicate with others who I am and what I am trying to do in and through my art. I realize the term may come across as bit distant, overreaching, egoic, or even perhaps like a silly supervillain :), but language itself is only a limited container or proxy to point at the real stuff and layered events that make up our experience of the universe. Through the the next 20 or so posts I hope to be able to embody the term as something close, relatable, and natural – to evoke and inspire, curiosity, presence, stillness, action, and maybe even catharsis. A growing component of my “collecting” is becoming aware of, pointing at, and attempting to integrate the multi faceted lenses with which these many worlds and realities are seen – or in many cases continue to be tragically unseen.
Bio / Artist Statement:
I am a multidisciplinary artist living with my wife Maggie and young son Cedar in St. Petersburg, FL and at our family land “The Floating Woods” in rural Gulf Hammock, FL. I have been involved in the Tampa Bay area art community as a professional artist, preparator/art handler, curator, and grass roots organizer for the past 20 years. My diverse creative background includes painting, sculpture, photography, site specific installation, video, graphic design, musical composition and performance art.
As a Florida native who spent much of my childhood outdoors, I maintain a deep connection to and a growing concern for our state’s unique natural environment. To create my artwork I actively seek, collect, and re-contextualize, overlooked, organic phenomena and discarded man-made artifacts which in turn serve as inspiration or raw materials for a wide range of creative explorations. This cross-discipline practice is dually driven by the curiosity of a naturalist and the earnest concern of a prophet/poet – revealing what is being lost, while reveling in the infinite wonder and mystery of what remains.
Many of my source materials are gathered from extensive stalking in and around “The Floating Woods”. Others are found locally amid the process of daily life. Paralleling this curiosity with the nature world, I also engage in a rhizome-like, consumption of culture including art, music, literature, philosophy, physics, biology, history, religion, etc. My studio practice flows out the integration and these compulsions. The varied creations emerge through linking these wanderings/dwellings in the field with an intuitive approach to making that guides the direction and shapes the layered meanings of the artworks.
Through these creative strategies, the complex microcosm I encounter in the forest and swamp has become a lens with which I view the cosmos as I seek to understand my place in it. Over the past few years, especially since the birth of my 4-year-old son, this process has been expanding from deconstruction towards the pursuit of reconstruction and integration. With my most recent works I am both contemplating and attempting to create space for dialogue around current, pressing social and environmental issues that act to separate us from ourselves, each other, and nature – like fundamentalism, tribalism, and climate collapse apathy/denial.
Since my premiere solo exhibition “Intimate Immensities: Curiosity Cabinets of the Floating Woods” at the Studio @ 620 in 2015, I have focused on expanding my creative practice and growing my vocation as a professional artist. This endeavor was greatly assisted by receiving the Creative Pinellas Emerging Artis Grant in 2017, the Individual Artist grant from The St. Petersburg Arts Alliance in 2018, and the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs Professional Development Workshop in 2019. Over the past 5 years I have exhibited work in many solo and group exhibitions and have given related lectures all across the Tampa Bay Area, including The Morean Arts Center, The Dunedin Fine Arts Center, The Studio @ 620, The Gallery at Creative Pinellas, Mize Gallery, Urban Arts Gallery, Gallery 3 at Hillsborough Community College, Nelson Poynter Memorial Gallery at USFSP, The Centre Gallery at USF, AIA Tampa Bay Gallery, SPAACES Gallery in Sarasota, and the Palmetto Arts Center. I have also exhibited work out of state, including two group exhibitions at Yale Divinity School, a solo exhibition at Olivet University near Chicago, IL in January 2020, and most recently a solo exhibition spanning two galleries at The University of Montevallo near Birmingham, AL from August to October 2020.
In fall of 2018 I was selected for a semester long, sustainability focused Public Art Project at The University of South Florida St. Petersburg. The completed sculptures developed out of time I spent on campus throughout a semester interacting with students and faculty while giving lectures to a wide variety of classes and leading groups of students on campus nature tours.
In addition to my vocation as a professional artist, I have been working for nearly two decades in the local art community as a Curator, Exhibition Designer, and Preparator/Art handler towards the growth and flourishing of local artists, arts institutions, and many grassroots initiatives. I have worked with The Morean Arts Center, The Studio @620, Creative Pinellas, and as a member of St.Cate Fine Arts Team – The James Museum, The Imagine Museum, The Dali Museum, Florida Craft Art, Tampa Museum of Art, etc. Most recently, I was employed by the Museum of Fine Arts as a Preparator throughout 2020, where I played an important role in the comprehensive renovations to the permanent collection galleries while the museum was closed due to Covid 19. I am currently the Lead Preparator for the Scarfone-Hartley Gallery at The University of Tampa and the Nelson Poynter Memorial Gallery at USFSP.