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Mountains of color: Jena Schmidt

Mountains of color: Jena Schmidt

At first seemingly flat, Jena Schmidt's paintings are studies in great expanse and depth. Utilizing both acrylic and oil, and a minimum of collage, she incorporates aerial views of mountainous terrain. As a native of Salt Lake City, Utah, it's easy to understand how she was influenced by the dramatic landscape in that part of the country. The works are somewhat abstract, and yet essentially they are landscapes, seen from a perspective as if we backed way up into the air to take them in, and the atmosphere has begun to obscure some details while at the same time making others more obvious: a large swath of blue mountainside might give way to a detailed observation of a river cutting through the rock.

I immediately imagine being in a plane, flying over the western United States, where on a clear day from the sky, the mountains, strangely flattened and abstract when seen from the sky, take on a grand scale not so much in their vast height, but the immense expanse of land they cover, always to remain wild and uninhabitable. Schmidt's paintings present the contradictory senses of being within and being far away from her landscapes at the same time, and it is this contradiction that generates energy.

The material quality of the paintings caught my attention right away, combining various techniques and consistencies of paint and surface materials, but the more I study them, the more I appreciate the landscapes, as if they've been toned down on purpose so the viewer is tasked with trying to find where they begin and end. The color choices first drew me to them, perhaps because I am enamored of studies in blue and green, however Schmidt's complementary reds and pinks cuts across the canvases in the form of ruled lines, geometric blocks or daubed accents and add points of interest, not unlike a traveler tries to find.

Jena Schmidt earned her BFA from Brigham Young University in 2011 and currently lives and works in Salt Lake City. She keeps a wonderfully up-to-date blog, and further information (and plenty of wonderful images) can be found on her website, jenaschmidt.com.

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VERGES|The Wild Project

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