Current / Upcoming Projects:
Paths of Consumption (Educational & Environmental focused outdoor installation project)
> University of South Florida St. Petersburg Campus / Fall 2018 – Winter 2019
Both Either And Or (solo exhibition)
> Gallery 221 @ HCC / Summer 2019
> The Museum at Creative Pinellas / November 2018
I + Thou
> Dunedin Fine Arts Center / Summer 2018
Water Over the Bridge: Contemporary Seascapes
> The Morean Arts Center / Spring 2018
> Mize Gallery / September 2018
> AIA Tampa Bay Gallery / August 2018
Solar Flare (Pop-up Exhibition)
> Intermezzo / June 30, 2018
> The Morean Arts Center / Fall 2017
Intimate Immensities: Curiosity Cabinets of the Floating Woods (solo exhibition)
> The Studio @ 620 / Winter 2015
> Ruach Gallery / Fall 2017
> Creative Pinellas 2017 Emerging Artist Grant
> St.Petersburg Arts Alliance 2018 Individual Artist Grant
Creative Pinellas 2017 Emerging Artist Grant Exhibition
> Gulf Coast Museum of Art / Fall 2017
Between Clock and Bed
> Yale University (Yale Divinity School) / Spring 2016
Construct (traveling exhibition)
> AIA Tampa Bay / Spring 2017
> University of South Florida Centre Gallery / Summer 2017
> Palmetto Art Center / Fall 2017
> The Studio @ 620 / Winter 2016
Kairos, The Future Sucks, & Black and White
> The Venture Compound / 2014-15
> Carson-Newman University / Oct 2013
(primary organizer & exhibiting artist)
> The Underground Network (Ybor City) / March 2011
Spectra / Winter 2005
Second Nature / Fall 2004
Transparency / Winter 2004
Install / Fall 2003
> Project Creo: Center for Art and Design (St. Petersburg)
(primary organizer & exhibiting artist)
St. Cate Fine Arts
> Art handler & Installer / Present
The Museum of Fine Arts
> Independent Contractor with the Exhibitions and Education Departments / 2013- 2018
The Studio @ 620
> Gallery Curator & Studio Manager /January 2015 – April 2017
> Exhibition Specialist (Independent Contractor) / 2009-2014
The Art Center / Project Creo: Center for Art and Design
> Exhibition Designer & Installer / Graphic Designer / Programming / House Manager /2004-2007
BFA (Dual Emphasis in Painting and Graphic Design), Carson Newman University / 2000
2. "Dancing with a Hurricane | Kenny Jensen" by Danny Olda from the February edition of the Creative Pinellas Monthly Journal.
3. Yale University Website essay about the "Between Clock and Bed" exhibition curated by Jon Seals.
4. Creative Loafing: Reclaimed and Reimagined: Kenny Jensen’s Intimate Immensities.
The solo show at Studio@620 is part swamp séance and part family lore.
By Megan Voeller
The whole time Kenny Jensen was growing up, his grandfather was building a dream. In a barn adjacent to his grandparents’ hand-built cabin in the swamp near Gulf Hammock, about 40 miles southwest of Gainesville, Jensen watched a 53-foot-long, three-level pleasure boat made of 50 tons of concrete take shape around a skeletal metal frame. Its extravagant features included space onboard for a smaller boat, a darkroom for Jensen’s grandmother (an avid photographer), and an ill-advised underwater window.
No one knew exactly why his grandfather was building the boat, Jensen says, but the project began after Jensen’s uncle died and lasted 18 years. The colossal Fern A., which would float and eventually decompose on the Waccasassa River, became a late-in-life obsession for the former commercial fisherman and electrical engineer.
Years later, while Jensen was finding his way as a graphic designer, painter and cultural producer, he recalled the spirit of invention that infused his grandparents’ rural retirement. Leaving St. Petersburg for San Diego in 2006, after helping to organize a dozen contemporary art exhibitions at the Pier and the Morean Arts Center under the banner “Project Creo,” he returned to the cabin in Gulf Hammock and collected odds and ends, including a dilapidated piece of cloth that once functioned as seat covers sown by Jensen's mother for the pilot house of the boat.
In California, Jensen transformed the cloth into a painting by flipping it over and tracing its intricate network of root-like growths with a red pen and white paint. After a series of long meditations on San Diego beaches, he began to imagine merging his art and life in such works.
A turning point came after Jensen moved back to St. Pete and in 2013, married his wife, Maggie, and began decorating their bungalow with artifacts and clusters of found objects — hunks of driftwood, pint-sized tangles of electrical wiring — salvaged from the cabin and surrounding swamp. Maggie asked a simple question. “This is your art. Why don’t you show this?” Jensen recalls.
This week, a short-run exhibition at the Studio@620 showcases what happened when he decided to do just that. More than 100 pieces — ranging from minimally manipulated found objects recovered from his family’s property to photographs, drawings and carefully crafted sculptures — spill out into an archival love letter to the Gulf Hammock family home, which Jensen calls the “Floating Woods.”
The works display an engrossing range of approaches to making. Many are variations on a cabinet of curiosities, or a quirky collection of things arranged by theme or likeness, from dried swamp weeds to fragments of animal skull. Jensen weaves these elements together with more intentional artworks: cinematic color photographs shot in the swamp with friends, with Jensen acting as director, and altered maps, family photos and found images. On Saturday, Jensen gives a public talk at the Studio@620, where he also works as gallery curator and studio manager.
“I saw that the ideas I was most interested in communicating were best expressed through the play, through the collecting, the arranging. I’m a composer more than I am a painter,” Jensen says.
When I turned up at his Crescent Lake home for a visit before the exhibition, I worried that Jensen’s collecting impulse might require a serious edit. Stacks of framed curiosities, drawings and photographs — all tenderly encased by hand with salvaged wood from, among other places, a friend’s termite-eaten garage in Seminole Heights — took over his indoor studio, a converted bedroom. A cat nested on a shelf amid half a dozen slender stumps of wood, now arranged on a white pedestal at the Studio@620, incised with graphic designs of curling insect-track patterns. Twisting chunks of driftwood and mangrove roots had colonized the garage.
But the exhibition, though dense, has unfolded beautifully onto newly built walls in the gallery. Many artists who work in such archival modes do so to probe a historical or scientific narrative. Jensen's task is more like conjuring: his exhibition is part swamp séance and part family lore.
Not all junk left to rot in your grandpa’s barn is created equal. Jensen picks the stuff he can coax something special out of: a yellowed scrap of paper revived with a delicate colored pencil drawing; a DIY electrical circuit board repurposed into a kind of abstract geometric collage; or a decomposing stack of magazines, gorgeous with flaky crustiness, just mounted to a wall.
The drawing on cloth from his grandfather’s boat hangs at the front of the show. The back of the gallery is devoted to a small exhibition-within-the-exhibition of his grandfather’s designs and his grandmother’s photographs.
When Jensen’s grandparents returned to St. Petersburg a few years ago for health reasons, he acquired the deed to the Gulf Hammock property, where he and his wife escape on weekends. Now Jensen plans to develop the site into an artists’ residency program, a resource sorely lacking in West Central Florida. The work in Intimate Immensities offers a preview of the sensibility he hopes to share with other artists.
“This is what I see when I’m in creation and nature,” Jensen says. “I’m synthesizing my experience in the swamp and in the world with the gallery.”