Wit and whimsy
This story was featured in the February 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art February 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Mimi Jensen is often reluctant to say that she’s a still-life painter because people imagine paintings featuring lifeless rabbits, hunks of cheese, and half-peeled oranges. But Jensen eschews the old-masters version of the genre and instead favors incorporating more modern objects, such as martini glasses and paper birthday hats. Her work is peppered with visual puns and humor. A self-described contemporary realist who is noted for adding a touch of wit and whimsy to her work, the San Francisco-based artist has been named a finalist in The Artist’s Magazine’s annual painting competition for the past several years.
Although Jensen took several painting and drawing classes at California State University, Long Beach, she has mostly studied on her own, taking workshops close to home at Stanford University and the Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier. But a two-week workshop at Seattle’s Gage Academy of Art was her most transformative educational experience. Prior to the workshop, Jensen says she paid attention to the art-school mantra, “loosen up.” Although it may sound odd, Jensen says artist and teacher John Morra gave her “permission” to become the painter she is today. “John convinced me to appreciate my capacity for painting realistically and in detail,” she says. “It opened up a whole new world of still life to me.”
Inside her San Francisco studio, Jensen stores the stars of her tabletop dramas—items she has collected from thrift shops and estate sales over the years. She enjoys conjuring up themes for new works, some of which eventually evolve into series. For example, a trip to New York and visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art inspired the series titled A Week at the Met—an homage to artists such as Henri Matisse. Another series features objects, including vases, that belong to beloved family members and friends.
Jensen spends many hours selecting and arranging her treasures, always aiming for compositions that are complex yet balanced. Once she is satisfied with the tableaux, she spends close to a month creating each painting. “It’s been suggested to me that arranging is the “art” and painting is the “craft,” Jensen says. “And that has a ring of truth to me.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Featured in the February 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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