Unforgetting ~ A Reflection on Life, Death, and Change
Kenny Jensen Blog Post #3 ~ May, 2021
Post – Afterlife:
In this post I will be sharing the painting and statement I created for the “Afterlife” Group Exhibition at the Mize Gallery in St. Petersburg – March 2021. Special thanks to Chad for inviting me to participate in this special and meaningful exhibition. It is truly an honor to exhibit with this incredible group of artists – Including my fellow Creative Pinellas grantee Reid Jenkins:) For more information on “Afterlife” and Mize Gallery check out chadmize.com and @mizegallery
Also, scroll to the end of this post to see an overview of the exhibition.
Unforgetting, Oil on panel, 22 x 32, 2021, Private collection.
“Late last Friday, as this painting neared completion, my grandmother Fern Jensen breathed her last breath. Earlier, the family gathered around to sweetly sing some of her favorite old hymns “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder” and “This World Is Not My Home” to name a few. These songs are lovely in their way and have been a comfort to Fern throughout her life, but the tradition which she, and later I, grew up in and that birthed these hymns is almost entirely focused on narrow assumptions and misunderstandings about what is supposed to happen after death. This is to me almost entirely missing the point. An adventure with a foregone conclusion only – the actual journey, the essence of being alive all but forgotten aside from certain morality codes and the need to maintain the status quo at all cost
This painting is a translation of a photograph shot through an inadequate lens. It captures a handful of soil and decomposing leaves tossed directly in front of the camera in the forests of my grandparent’s land in rural Gulf Hammock, Fl. The time I spent there with them throughout my formation is a primary factor in making me the kind of person and artist that I am and strive to be. Mama’s lasting legacy I am grateful for, is not the rote ideas she repeated, but her actual connection to life and nature vividly expressed through her tens of thousands of photographs, love and nurturing of plants – especially flowers, humor and infectious smile, enthusiastic piano playing, her quiet and consistent generosity etc…
Post deconstruction of the evangelical world view I was given by my tribe, I find myself drawn more and more to the mystics and wisdom teachers like Richard Rohr, Echart Tolle, and Ram Dass. I am learning to embrace mystery and see with a more expansive lens – more aware of how deeply everyone and everything is connected. Remembering that we and everything around us is made up literally of the same materials and energy that was present at the big bang. I am no longer so concerned with answers about what happens after death, or even how to die in peace. Rather, how do we live this and all moments in peace. As the sacred text that I still greatly value says – “have life, and have it more abundantly”.
March 2, 2021
Note on this Statement:
It is not my intention to offend or try to convince anyone (my family in particular). Rather, this is an exercise in vulnerability and an honest expression of what I was feeling when I wrote this. The content has been edited a bit upon further reflection after I submitted it for the exhibition to be clearer, less abrasive and hopefully less triggering.
Here are a few images of Fern and her photography:
I have been contemplating these issues a lot this year (as have countless others as the result of the pandemic). In addition to the funeral for Fern at the beginning of March, we had to travel to two more family and friend funerals, all in the span of a month. This past weekend (May 29) my grandmother’s house, which is where my father grew up and has always been a second house for me, almost burnt down. The damage was devastating. Thankfully, even though the fire started in close proximity to dozens of family photo albums, we were able to get them out soon enough after the fire was put out to salvage most of Fern’s photos – our family legacy. I have been going through thousands of film prints of our family history as a result. I will write more about this process and how it relates to my current art practice at a later time.
Fern A Jensen was/is an amazing person who was loved by many. Due to her growing dementia which got much worst during the isolation of the lockdown and the confusion of 2020, she was not present in the way I remember growing up for the last several years, so I have been grieving her loss slowly for a long time. I love you and miss you Mama.
“Afterlife” Group Exhibition Overview ~ Mize Gallery March 2021