Steve Jensen has been a working artist for over 30 years. He comes from a long tradition of Norwegian fisherman and boat builders, growing up on his father’s fishing boat. His current body of work, “Böts”, explores the universal image of the boat.
Jensen plays an influential role in the Pacific Northwest, making his mark on the landscape with monumental public artworks, as well as emotionally charged paintings and sculptures imbued with personal narrative. He works in many mediums, oil on recycled wood, carved naturally fallen cedar, large sculptures in bronze, aluminum, and stainless steel, and small cast sculptures in resin with recycled materials.
Jensen's current body of work revolves around “The Voyage”. In the wake of losing several family members and close friends in a compacted period of time, he sought a way to process his grief. For Jensen, the boat embodies the concept of passage from place to place, from life to death. Carved calligraphic motifs reflect his close relationship to the water and the refashioning of found elements mirror the aesthetic traditions of his Norwegian forbearers. The boat has become a hallmark of Jensen's artistry and a symbol of his personal voyage and path to healing.
Exhibited widely throughout the United States, Jensen has been awarded numerous awards and grants, including the Morris Graves Fellowship and the PONCHO Artist of the Year Award. He has also been selected for more than 30 public art pieces in the U.S., Japan and China.
For the past two decades, I have developed a body of sculptural work derived from my experiences and the landscapes I encounter. The experiences encompass both my heritage and a broader contemporary circumstance. The landscape is our seas, waterways, forests, and mountains. The abundant beauty of the world's available natural resources and the precariousness of the relationship that we maintain with them inspire me. It is this relationship that powers my Carvings.
This artwork begins as homage to its source media. All of the wood used in Carvings is naturally felled. No living tree has or will be cut for the sake of this work. I come from a long tradition of Norwegian fishermen and boat builders. The chisels I use have been passed from my grandfather to my father to me. The craftsmanship of my work speaks to the universality and the timelessness of carving.
This work uses the primitive tradition of carving to abstractly explore a synthesis of contemporary circumstances. It explores the relationships we maintain with each other and our world. The emerging globalism of art is inherent to Carvings . Images from my heritage have been expanded over the past few years by my travels through many countries, including Egypt , Kenya , Tahiti , India , China , and Thailand . I have found the universal expression of carving throughout each of the cultures I have encountered. It serves as a vehicle for imagery that is inspired by our varying experiences, as well as the natural resources from which we all benefit.
My best friend Sylvan did a drawing of a boat. When he gave it to me, he asked if, when he passed, I would make a carved boat for his ashes. He died a month later and I carved a boat as close to Sylvan's. drawings as possible. My mother came to Sylvan's funeral, and she was so moved by the boat, she wanted my father's remains, when he passed, put in a similar vessel. Since he was a Norwegian fisherman, we buried the boat at sea, like a Viking funeral.
Since that time I have created several funeral boats for friends, family, and pets. Art school never prepared me to work with human or animal ashes, but I feel honored to have this opportunity. When I work with them, I feel transformed to another place or time where an artist was asked to be both craftsman and mortician.
The Voyager series, carved in wood or painted, is a direct result of these experiences. As humans, death is the one thing we have in common, and the boat in many cultures symbolizes a passage, or voyage, perhaps to the other side.