The first time I fell in love was with a painting. It happened when I was a child at the Albright Knox Art Museum in Buffalo, NY. I had gotten lost and heading up a side stairwell, I came to a halt in front of a massive 12×18 foot painting hanging in the landing. It was Anselm Kiefer’s Die Milchstrasse/The Milky Way – a thickly matted painting that had me speechless and frozen in my tracks. As a generational adopted child of Polish descent (my father was adopted from Bialystok Poland, and then relinquished me when I was four), I heard Kiefer’s painting speaking in a language I understood. Over the years, I continued to go back to that inspiring painting and his other work, figuring out over time/in bits and pieces that it was his German roots and references to the Holocaust, war and spiritualism which helped to liberate the part of me that has felt ashamed of my story. I continue to rely on painters like Kiefer to educate me on whom my family might have been and the cultural history I grew up without, as well as paint hope and healing as Die Milchstrasse/the Milky Way did for me: with its depicted monstrous gash baring light from the universe, in a snow-covered battlefield.
Two poets have been dominant in shaping my inner world as an artist. The first is Russian poet Rainer Maria Rilke who wrote in Das Stunden-Buch; Book of Hours, “I would describe myself like a landscape I’ve studied at length, in detail/ like a word I’m coming to understand/ like a pitcher I pour from at mealtime/ like my mother’s face/ like a ship that carried me when the waters raged.” My focus has been creating art influenced by cultural taboo topics laying just under surface: grief, loneliness, trauma; the objectification of adopted children and society’s paradoxical standards. My art implies displacement and the solitary landscapes adoptees live in; the disbelief and profound anxiety that the adoptee is left with, separated from their landscape of origin.
The way I see landscapes has also been shaped by distinguished poet Maggie Anderson. She says in her poem A New Life that her heart does not want to go everywhere with her, but that it has “come back from the uncertain field of its banishment, where I made it go lie down”. I want to explore in my art those uncertain fields where we make parts of ourselves do things: hide, behave, refuse love in order to survive. She ends that poem with rebirth: “I’m inventing a new life from what’s at hand: the susurration of the leaves, the black branches/ turning, wet and shining/ you’re just in time.” I am to explore the misplaced objects and conversations that exist subsurface; to create materials that suggest functionality but are slightly deformed, like the adoptee as a pitcher that cannot quite be poured from. Creating work that plays with the uncomfortable and what happens when the viewer allows themselves to see something new in something familiar brings me joy.
Jenny Jansen (b. Tacoma, WA 1975), an Adoptee, grateful to have grown up in and continuously passionate for Chautauqua Institution. She has resided in the Pacific Northwest for the last 20 years, working in paint and clay with her beautiful family.
1994 Columbus College of Art and Design, Painting and Drawing, Columbus OH
1998 Kent State University (BA), Literature and Poetry, Kent OH
2000 University of Akron/Studied Painting and Drawing with Laura Vinnedge
2001 Flux Metal Arts School, Mentor OH
2002 Cuyahoga Valley Art Center, Akron OH
2019 Gage Academy of Art/Studied Painting Abstraction with Eric Elliot
1994 Regional Art Student of the Year, Rotary Club, Canton OH
1998 Leadership in the Wilderness Award (Wyoming), Coalition for Christian Outreach
2007-2008 Art Club Elementary School Instructor, Bellingham WA
2013-2014 Guest Art Teacher, Lowell Elementary School, Bellingham WA
2014-2017 Chairperson, St. Joseph Hospital Art Committee
2000 University of Akron Fall Art Sale, Akron OH
2004 Community Collective Gallery Group Show, Akron OH
2004 Elements Gallery, Peninsula OH
2008 Oh! Brothers Gallery, Vancouver BC
2009 Frameworks Gallery Group Show, Bellingham WA
2009-2015 Gallery West – Representation, Bellingham WA
2015 Fall Juried Show, Lynden Art Center, Lynden WA
2015 Whatcom Art Museum, Art of the Senses Auction, Bellingham WA
2016 Confluence Gallery Group Show, Winthrop WA
2016 Lucia Douglas Gallery Group Show, Bellingham WA
2018 Whatcom Art Museum, Art Gala Auction, Bellingham WA
2017 Lucia Douglas Gallery Group Show, Bellingham WA
2017 Allied Arts, Point of Reference Group Show, Bellingham WA
2018 Lucia Douglas Gallery Group Show, Bellingham WA