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Calgary
Lindsay Sorell
Natasha Jensen at Five Art & Merchandise
July 04, 2018

Antiques, Blush, Character Home, Desire, Exotic landscape, Fainting, Garter, Heathcliff, Iron Gate, Jewelry, Kisses, Loss of Control, Matriarchy, Old Hairstyles, Protest, Robin’s Egg, Seduction, Titanic, Unconscious Mind, Vase, Waist: the alphabet as imagined by RBC Emerging Artist Award winner Natasha Jensen. Her exhibition Honey Pot, currently showing at Five Art & Merchandise is a visual découpé of selected terms from her master list of muses exploring the semiotics of the constructed female fantasy.



Natasha Jensen

Honey Pot takes from the inter-cultural and trade-related history of vase-making, porcelain, and the popularity of Orientalism in Western Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque art. Jensen has drawn three decorative Delftware-esque vases, not in the traditional cobalt blue, but in shades of pink pencil crayon, and on rose pink paper. An amphora is adorned with symbols of duality – a cameo of swans, leaves, strawberries. Swans, mates for life, are often the symbol of true eternal love; however, in the context of the bestial Greek mythological tale of Leda and the Swan, they are also a symbol of sexual desire. Strawberries too – traditionally locally used in Indigenous teachings and women’s fertility medicine, and a symbol of the righteousness of Mother Mary in Medieval art – are, somewhat less righteously, a symbol of sexual temptation in Hieronymus Bosch’s famous Garden of Earthly Delights.

A vase the shape of an elongated Greek oil vessel, the lekythos, is nearly obscured with an enormous desert willow flower, its petals both enveloping and making up the body of the vase, echoing and elaborating female sexual organs. The third is a multi-shafted tulip vase encrusted with flowers and ornamented with leaves, rising up out of the flora like a fantastic castle on the horizon, an untapped fantasy in all its femme fatale mystique. Each vase has a waist-like fillet that echoes the traditionally gendered, worshipped, and belted hourglass female shape, one even contained inside an oblong pencil crayon halo like an Edwardian cameo. Tacked to the wall with metallic gold push-pins, each vase is lustrous, decoratively obscuring its hidden contents, a vessel alluding to a secret sensual compartment, a catfishing honey pot, a pink vagina, a trap.

Standing brilliantly off the wall and casting a hard, contrasting shadow behind it, is also a pencil crayon drawing of none other than Alberta’s provincial flower: a thorned rosebush intricately cut out and hovering off the wall like a magic illusion of dimensionalities. The wild rose, used for nourishment, teaching, and ceremonial medicine by Indigenous people for centuries, can now be found on Alberta license plates as the provincial government flower. It is both a symbol of the pre-colonial and colonial.

Jensen’s work abides in duality and imitation; she imitates three-dimensionality, the body, and blockbuster femininity with an ironic softness. Her imitation Dutch Delftware, which historically began as imitation Chinese porcelain, and her faux-gold pushpins, catfish us with their glint, and then point to the trade-related valuing of objects, nature, and the female body. Honey Pot is an ironically soft representation of materials originating in colonialism, sexism, and cultural appropriation – the results of attacks, disempowerment, and excommunication. Jensen painstakingly renders these terms too, pointing to personal and the broader social fetishization of symbols of perfection or femininity detached from harmful contexts.


Natasha Jensen: Honey Pot continues until July 15
Five Art & Merchandise: https://www.fiveartandmerchandise.com/
The gallery is partially accessible.


Lindsay Sorell is an artist and writer who recently collaborated with the Advanced Toastmasters of Calgary for the IKG Live 1 performance festival and completed two solo exhibitions of new work: Exercises in Healing at Contemporary Calgary and Buddha, Why Am I Alone? at AVALANCHE! Institute of Contemporary Art. She is currently working on a large-scale watercolour painting of food and is the editor of Luma Quarterly. She is Akimblog's Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Instagram.

 

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