Abstract artists attached to Library exhibit
The Park City Library would like its patrons to change the way they look at the world.
Amongst its thousands of books, magazines and periodicals, the library opened a new abstract-art exhibit that features local artists — sumi-e ink painter Karen Kurka Jensen and encaustic and acrylic painter Linda McCausland — who create colorful abstract paintings.
Sumi-e, which has its foundation in Asia, requires the painter to use inks, while the encaustic style utilizes layers of pigment and beeswax.
Because of the materials, the works McCausland and Jensen create are decidedly different in approach and style, said Becca Lael, the library’s community engagement librarian.
“It’s interesting how Linda uses the wax to create a unique texture on the work,” Lael said. “And it’s interesting to see how Karen’s use of ink just flows.”
McCausland’s ‘happy accidents’
McCausland, who also paints realistic works, said she feels free when painting encaustic abstracts.
“With realism you have to maintain the image with landscapes and animals, so there’s always a focus you need to keep on track and make sure a dog doesn’t look like a goat,” she said. “While encaustics are very challenging, you can just let things go.”
The difficulty comes with color schemes and composition.
“When you do abstracts, you don’t have any guidelines,” McCausland said. “You have to come up with a final painting that works. So you set up a scene and fill it with color. And that is also a challenge because colors interact and can change what the whole thing looks like.”
McCausland’s encaustic works shown at the library do showcase figure outlines.
“I started one and put in a figure, and it gave the work an air of mystery,” she said. “I began layering different things on top of it. This is why I like working with encaustics.”
Some of McCausland’s works are the result of what she calls, “happy accidents.”
“Whether those are the result of experimentation or just a random mark, they add a whole new dimension and idea to the piece,” she said. “Since they are wax, there’s a translucent feeling to it.”
Although McCausland has the final say in what a piece looks like, she does think it important to create a work that is open to interpretation.
“I want them to make up their own story,” she said. “I see my paintings as not just my stories, but the observer’s stories.”
McCausland also created some acrylic works for the library exhibit.
“The show was originally supposed to [feature] three people, but one had to drop out, so the library asked me for more paintings,” she said. “I added four acrylic works to the collection, and three of those four are new.”
One of the more difficult aspects of creating art for McCausland is determining when a work is finished.
“You get to a point where if you can ruin a painting if you keep going,” she said. “When I think I’m finished, I will put it aside, usually in a place I walk by each day. If something stands out that doesn’t feel right or doesn’t feel part of the whole, then I’ll change or fix it. Otherwise, I know it’s done when if feels right.”
McCausland, who also designed and marketed needlepoint kits, began working in art after a career in biochemistry.
“As I have gotten older, I realized the reason why I liked biology was because of the labs and because I liked to draw the images of things I researched,” she said. “When my children were in junior high and high school and didn’t want to be around their mother, I began taking art classes.”
Jensen discovered inks after a traumatic accident
Thirty years ago, Jensen was introduced to sumi-e when she began seeing a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner after a car accident. She had been training to become a librarian in Minnesota..
“American doctors couldn’t fix my back, and I looked elsewhere,” Jensen said. “The healer introduced me to his culture and that led me to my sumi-e instructor.”
Although Jensen doesn’t have a degree in art, her sumi-e works have caught the eye of some prestigious organizations.
The National Sumi-e Society of America recognized one of her works titled “Stratosphere” with its Founders Award. The award was named after Motoi Oi, a sumi-e painter who established the society in 1963.
Jensen said the works that are showing at the library were created over the past year.
“I’ve been painting what I term as ‘National Park’ or ‘natural areas’ in Utah, and I’ve been focusing on the beauty of those lands,” she said. “I’m also expanding it other national parks that I’ve been to outside of Utah.”
Her focus is abstract landscape.
“That also guides me on the palette that I use, because I use the colors that I see,” she said.
Jensen grew up loving nature, and that’s the reason why she enjoys creating these works.
“I started sketching at an early age,” she said. “So I’ve been acutely aware of forms, shapes and colors.”
Unlike McCausland, Jensen said she knows when a work is done.
“The piece actually tells me when to stop,” she said. “I used to have a friend named Priscilla Steele who was an artist and represented me in another gallery in the Midwest who told me that I had a good intuition that comes from studying landscapes and the art form. She said I just knew when to stop.”
Last year the Prothro Gallery on Park City’s Historic Main Street began representing Jensen.
“They have been so great to work with,” she said.
Both McCausland and Jensen said they are honored to show their works in the Park City Library this month.
“I’m older and don’t like to work art fairs where you lug all your stuff in, set things up and sit for 12 hours before you have to lug all the stuff home,” McCausland said. “I like to paint, but it’s not a full-time job for me. So it means a lot to me to have an opportunity to show my work to the community and not have to be there all the time.”
Jensen is happy to return to her first love, the library, through her art.
“This is very meaningful to me,” she said. “A friend of mine who used to work with me at the library in the Twin Cities told me that I have come full circle, only this time as an artist.”
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