When I moved from Manhattan to a secluded mountaintop house in Vermont, my wonderment at the measurelessness of the landscape surrounding the house was boundless. At night, it was an endless universe of black space but in the morning light, even in April when snow covered the ground, there emerged at the edge of the distant woods the soft nuanced greens of willows and the soft reds of new growth on maples. A still-frozen stream far in the distance was the sole interruption, a meandering silver stroke spanning the snowy vastness.
Recently, I set out to visit Northern Daughters Gallery in Vergennes, a cool community that boasts several top-rated chef-owned bistros, bars, patisserie shops and even a chocolatier.
My interest was in seeing more of Julia Jensen’s large-scale semi-abstract landscapes that I had seen a year ago. Her paintings have a way of staying with you, long after you leave the gallery, the same way my memory of that mountaintop house and the landscape surrounding it is with me still, years later.
Jensen knows northern light in all its variations — stark, searing, muted, gloomy, soft, sensual. Her large oils often devote a greater part of the panel to the foreground, as in two related works “Understanding of Where” and “Then I Walked Outside.” The foreground expanse glistens with multiple layers of fluid light: The blues and yellows meld into each other creating a depth that draws the eyes to the top of the panel where a cool blue gray tone contrasts with the light-infused copper and crimson that anchor the setting.
I asked Jensen about these two works because they indicate an expansion of the artist’s vision, if not totally a departure from previous works. She said, “I am constantly working with landscape colors, blues and greens. I try to find a way to either push that palette to extremes or completely abandon it.” Much of her earlier work was created on location but more recent works are done in studio where she draws on both visual memory and sense memory. “By not being confined to depicting a specific time or place, I am able to be much looser in my process. I can let the work evolve in its own. I might start the painting with one idea in mind but as I build the surface and things happen, I can react to a mark or color combination and follow the paint in the direction that it wants to go. I am not the boss. I just show up and do my work.”