The Gallery at Pioneer Bluffs
 

Gesine Janzen – Summer 2016

“Homelands”

August 6 – September 25,  Opening Reception on August 6, 2pm -5pm

Janzen’s prints possess a latent power.  The places she shows us are at once familiar and deeply shrouded.  The subjects are commonplace: flat river valleys and plains–populated with the wild assertions of tall grasses and forbs or distant trees.  Empty of the kind of landmarks or delineations we instinctively look for, these landscapes initially leave us lost, with little sense of direction.  (This is especially true when even the horizon is abstracted or absent).  And yet, somehow, we intuit this is not some universal landscape but a particular place.

The sense of disorientation is as chronological as geographical, because layered into these landscapes are dreams and memories—not only those of the artist but also those of the ancestors who lived (and died) here.

Janzen now teaches at Montana State University, but she grew up in Lawrence, Kansas and spent her summers in rural Elbing, Kansas.  After moving to Montana from Kansas, Janzen says, “I struggled to find a connection with the dramatic mountain scenery. My husband took me to one of his favorite drawing spots, the Missouri River Headwaters near Bozeman.  I felt I could connect with the rhythms of the grasses, shrubs, and gently coursing water. It occurred to me that the river, which starts right here, wanders and flows across the plains, all the way past Kansas creating a comforting physical connection between these two places.”

In her “Ancestral Landscapes,” Janzen explores the lands of her ancestors who lived in Poland and Germany until they all immigrated.  Using the free-form and irreproducible printmaking technique known as monotype (and also trace monotype), Janzen creates images that are somewhat suggestive of early (faded) photographs.  But unlike a photograph, these dreamlike scenes do not offer the illusion of recreating the past.  Says Janzen: “Images are layered and obscure. And what happened in the past is no longer present.”

And yet there is a deep sense of connectivity to the past; the connection however is more of a spiritual or existential one.  The past lives through the chain of memories passed on through generations.

Her focus on memory as a component of landscape along with her expressive style of cutting recall the woodcuts of Anselm Kiefer.  In Kiefer’s images, the lingering presence is more harrowing and explicit, sometimes even taking the form of a figure, a structure or a series of words in handwritten script.  The presence that indwells Janzen’s landscapes is more subtle and less foreboding, and her prints are more attentive to the landscape itself rather than an idea behind the landscape.  But they are nevertheless charged with emotion and often with a sense of loss. “I think about the beauty and the sadness over time,” says Janzen.  “The prints are visual records of my ruminations and wanderings across the landscape of the past and the present.”

 

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