Biography Karen Kurka Jensen is an accomplished sumi-e artist, portraying her deep connection to nature through mystical landscapes and abstract images. Jensen grew up in Minnesota where she was sidetracked from a library career following a traumatic car accident. She went in search of alternative healing after her doctors could not relieve her chronic pain. She met a traditional Chinese healer who not only treated her successfully but introduced her to the Chinese culture and heritage. This led her down a path of discovery in which she fell in love with the art of sumi-e. Karen met and began studying with American sumi-e masters, Susan Frame and Susan Christie shortly after they returned from formal studies overseas in China and Japan, where their teachers were Zhuo He-Jun and Lu Yen Shao. They continue to be her mentors, teachers and dear friends. She has taken workshops with Cheng Khee Chee, Lok Tok and has continued research studies on her own from reknown sumie artists such as Diana Kan and Gao Xingjian. Karen also teaches classes and workshops on the beautiful art of sumi-e.
Early in her career, she developed her own sumi-e inspired style of abstract expressionism; her dreamy landscapes and images take the viewer on a journey into their very own souls. She conveys her poetic style through the use of natural and traditional materials, creating fantastical images on delicate rice paper with water, ink and color.
Jensen now resides in Timber Lakes, Utah, where she walks the trails and mountains of her home after establishing a successful career in galleries and workshops across the Midwest. She continues to teach and exhibit locally and nationally. Her work is in public and private collections across the country.
Statement My philosophy as an artist derives from my studies of sumi-e and its history, beginning in China where the people have long held that their magnificent culture was a gift from the heavens. Art was primarily a means to explore the connection between humankind and God. Artists cultivated virtue in themselves because they felt that to create art worthy of the divine, there must first be inner beauty. Part of my daily discipline is in waiting. It is dwelling, quiet and patient. It is prayer. Prayer as the absence of wanting and asking. Prayer as emptiness, prayer as silence, prayer as stillness. Sometimes I just sit and look. I look at the majesty of the sky, all the amazing drama, its moods, shapes and colors. Or I look at water, the shifting surface, reflecting, revealing, hiding, disclosing. One minute, still and peaceful, showing me the secrets of its depths; the next, rippling with the breath of an oncoming storm when all images are swept away. I let these things be, I simply dwell in this presence. It‘s where I’ve always felt closest to God. I receive the moment and embrace it, finding in nature, peace and healing.
John Muir wrote,“Going to the woods is going home.“ My abstract landscapes are taking the viewer on a similar journey – away, to mystical worlds where you can get lost and feel at home in the same breath. When I discovered the medium of sumi-e, where the importance is on connecting spiritually to your subject, I found the language of my soul. Clients who purchase my work say it’s inspirational, peaceful – that they feel “something” whether it’s beauty, thoughtfulness, or mindfulness speaking into their souls. One of them wrote to me recently, “It’s like looking at a Florida sky before a storm or a Colorado mountain stream churning with energy. Your work is organic, filled with passion, spontaneity and harmony. At first glance seeming chaotic but then the balance and beauty shows itself, just like life, if you’re really looking.”
I use traditional methods in combination with an impressionistic style creating sumi-e inspired paintings, combining my skill in gesture and contour with a heightened sensitivity to my subject matter. I use scenes in nature as my inspiration, not as direct representations but as feelings and impressions from experiences that left a memorable impact on me. The flow of ink on the paper brings insight into my world by inviting you in, to share in the moment or mood created by my work; magical, mysterious, ecstatic, or divine.
Exhibitions, Awards, Publications and Honors Three person exhibition, Rio Gallery, UT, 2018 Solo exhibition, Diane West Gallery, Durango, CO, 2018 Solo exhibition, Park City, UT, 2018 Full feature newspaper article, Park City, UT, 2018 Full feature article in “15 Bytes” Utah’s Art Magazine, 2017 Two person exhibition, Bountiful Davis Center for the Arts, UT, 2017 Full feature newspaper article, Park City, UT, 2017 Inciting Rapture, The Gilded Pear Gallery, IA, 2017 Founder’s Award, 53rd Annual Sumi-e Society of America Exhibition, NY, 2016 Springville Museum of Art 92nd Spring Salon, UT, 2016 Bountiful Davis Center for the Arts Statewide Competition, UT, 2016 Utah Women Artists Biennial Exhibition, UT, 2016 Kickstarter project sucessfully funded for 3 solo exhibitions, IA, 2014 Augustana College Juried Exhibition, IL, 2014 For as high as the Heavens Are Above the Earth, solo exhibition, St Paul’s Monastery, MN, 2014 Atmosphere, Solo exhibition, Cornell College, IA, 2014 Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, solo exhibition, Dubuque Museum of Art, IA, 2013 First Place, St Paul’s Monastery Juried Exhibition, MN, 2013 From the Heart; Gifts of the Spirit, solo exhibition, Wartburg College, IA, 2013 Studio Visit, Vol 19, pgs 88-89, juried selection, published in 2013 Award Winner, Northern Lights Juried Exhibition, Century College, MN, 2012 Organic Expressions: Clay & Ink, two person show, ArtReach Gallery, MN, 2012 Cedar Rapids Museum of Art Juried Exhibition, IA, 2012 The Figge Museum of Art Juried Exhibition, IA, 2012 The Burnsville Center for the Arts Juried Exhibition, MN, 2012 The Trout Museum of Art Juried Exhibition, WI, 2011 The Hardy Gallery Juried Exhibition, Door County, WI, 2011 Bloomington Art Center Juried Exhibition, MN, 2011 Bergstrom-Mahler Museum Juried Exhibition, WI, 2010 Richeson 75 Int’l Landscape Exhibition, WI, 2010 Award Winner, John Aird Gallery Int’l Juried Exhibition, Canada, 2009 Award Winner, ArtEMC Juried Exhibition, IA, 2009 Artist Grant, Iowa Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, IA, 2009 Dubuque Biennial Juried Exhibition, IA, 2009 The Spirit of Sumi-e, solo exhibition, Quad City Arts, IL, 2009 Earth, Water, Fire & Spirit, two person show, Brio Gallery, IL, 2008 ArtXchange Gallery Int’l Juried Exhibition, WA, 2007 Cedar Rapids Museum of Art Juried Exhibition, IA, 2006 Award Winner, Iowa Artists Regional Juried Exhibition, IA, 2006 Award Winner, Iowa Artists State Juried Exhibition, IA, 2004 Collections, Corporate and Private The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, IA Coe College, IA Converge Consulting, IA EMC Insurance Company, IA Kirkwood College, IA Park City Hospital, UT University of Iowa, IA Wartburg College, IA Private collections in AZ,IA, MN, ND, NY, UT, WA, WI Teaching Workshops Amana Arts Guild, Amana, IA Art Access, Salt Lake City, UT Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Cedar Rapids, IA Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA Dubuque Museum of Art, Dubuque, IA Eastern Iowa Arts Academy, Palo, IA Grand Marais Arts Colony, Grand Marais, MN Kimball Art Center, Park City, UT Lyon College, Batesville, AR Oshkosh Fine Arts Association, Oshkosh, WI Peninsula School of Art, Door County, WI Sharon Wilson Center for the Arts, Milwaukee, WI Trout Museum of Art, Appleton, WI University of Utah, UT Wartburg College, Waverly, IA White Bear Center for the Arts, St Paul, MN