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Jenni Jenkins Christensen
(Salt Lake City, Utah, 1949 - )
As a young girl growing up in Hawaii, Jenni Jenkins Christensen developed a love of flowers. Now, living in the foothills of the Wasatch mountains in Utah, bright and beautiful flowers are still very important to her as a specialist in the etching and printing of floral subjects.
In 1973, Jenni completed her undergraduate training at Brigham Young University, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Craft Design. While she loved craft design, her heart was also captured by fine art, and so during her studies at BYU, Jenni looked for a way to bridge the gap between these two realms. As a solution to this desire, she turned to the printmaking processes during her graduate studies. She felt the very rigorous, craft-oriented processes of printmaking satisfied her needs in that area while producing what falls into the category of fine art prints. In 1977, Jenni received her Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking from BYU, just a few years after her husband, Day Christensen, received his Bachelor of Arts in Art and Design from the same school.
From 1980 to 1988, Jenni spent several years teaching printmaking, drawing, and design. During her studies and work at BYU, Jenni encountered Alex Darais and Max Weaver, two teachers who, through their advice and encouragement, had a great influence on her work.
Jenni Christensen's work is characterized by a bright floral motif. This motif is similar to that of Georgia O'Keefe, whose work influenced Jenni as a young student. However, Jenni says she works with flowers because she has "always loved flowers and the garden; the variation is endless." Works such as her Spring Flowers series attest to both her skill as a craftsperson and to her vision as an artist. Her prints are carefully rendered line etchings filled with vibrant colors. Neutral greens give way to blues, reds, yellows, violets, and all shades in between: subtle shifts in hue communicate the ever-changing, pulsating quality of nature.
Towards the end of the 1980s, having been trained in and having worked in what are primarily two-dimensional processes, Jenni began to look for ways to develop her natural ability to work in-the-round. Yet not wanting to move completely away from the two-dimensional process, once again Jenni needed to find a bridge for her work. This time, the bridge was to span the distance between two and three dimensions in her art work. Her solution is to create "prints" on gourds. Although she is not sure where the idea came from, it is one that has been very successful for her, and currently, this medium is her main area of focus.
Christensen obtains her gourds from a supplier in California who grows them and puts them through a drying process, which can take up to two years. This long process is very important: the gourds must be completely dry to ensure they will not go moldy, crack, or present other problems. After choosing to work on gourds, Jenni experimented with them for about a year before finding a process that produced the results she desired. Her first step in the process is to draw the floral patterns on the gourd's surface in pencil. She then uses an etching needle to incise a line on the pencil marks. After this is finished, the background is then filled in by painting on a black leather dye. The next step is to paint the leaves and flowers using oil paints that are very thin and are applied in layers. Once the paint is dry, Jenni rubs a combination of powdered pigment and mineral oil into the incised lines. Once the excess oil and powder have been cleaned off, the background is reapplied and finally, two coats of varnish are used to give the gourds a smooth, glossy finish. The gourds have given Christensen a way to continue using her floral motif in a three-dimensional setting. She says, "It was natural for me to just begin doing flowers on the gourds."
Jenni Christensen's gourds have been shown in galleries in Utah, Arizona, Idaho, and Hawaii. Most recently, her works have been shown internationally in a traveling print show in Barcelona, Spain (1994), and in the public collection at the American Embassy in Sweden. Her awards include the Traveling Exhibition Award, 1989, at the Courtyard Gallery in Salt Lake City, and the Juror's Award, 1986, at the Springville Museum of Art's Spring Salon. Here in the United States, she has had several one-woman shows, among which are exhibits at the Old Town Gallery (1994), BYU (1994), and at the Salt Lake Arts Center (1993). Christensen's works are also displayed in public collections across the country and owned by many private collectors.