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Hayley Samathan Jensen + Heinrich Events: Sticky Spots and Rising Seas

As last year’s winner of the Younhee Paik scholarship, new alumna Hayley Samantha Jensen (MFA 2019) will be exhibiting her work at the Younhee Paik Studio for Music and Art during East Bay Open Studios on June 8–9 and 15–16. 

In the midst of graduating and installing, Hayley was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about the show, entitled Spectral Prisms and Hot Ice. We decided to focus on one piece, Heinrich Events: Sticky Spots and Rising Seas, to learn more about her process and work as a whole. 

SFAI: How do you find inspiration for your work?

Hayley Samantha Jensen: I’m easily inspired, as much by the incredible everyday things like clouds that can’t go unnoticed just as by my frustration that comes with seeing continued destruction and abuse in the name of progress. Emotion and rapid thinking rattle my fingers until I’m lost in the paint. Once I’m in a painting, I become enthralled by the gesture of the paint marks themselves, the moment I’m living trying to express all that rages in my mind, enchanted and hopeful in spite of the daunting. The marks become spirits in themselves.


SFAI:What was your process for creating the work you’re featuring in this show?

HSJ: I’ll be showing quite a few pieces but the main one I’m highlighting is called Heinrich Events: Sticky Spots and Rising Seas. I actually collaborated with another Master’s student studying Geology at Boston College who is also a young woman from New Orleans. Her name is Danielle Leblanc, and she has been working with me to focus on Heinrich events which were massive discharge episodes of icebergs presumably from North American ice sheets during the last glacial period (or thousands of years ago when climates were similar to today). It was another way of looking at the interconnection and precarity of the world’s assemblage of systems. 

And then actually making the piece, I got to experiment with collaging the surface with plastics I’d collected and experimented with, including adhering and sewing vinyls, cellophane, resin, and miscellaneous materials. Its suspension was an exciting jump for me as well, and highlighted that precarity I was suggesting.


SFAI: How did you select your materials?

HSJ: I’d been collecting them for a while, but most of them came from Urban Ore in Berkeley, recycling odd plastics. Plastic is an index of life and death; it’s made from the compressed past lives and deaths of other species. Through plastic’s past, I recognize its ghosts and memorialize their lives as kin through colorful play.

SFAI: How were you feeling when you made the work? What are you trying to convey?

HSJ: When I was making the work, I was very focused on trying to make the piece sturdy enough while still managing its fragility. I spent just as much time, if not more, working on the surface of the painting as the painting itself. I was in a whirlwind at the time of making it, filled with anxieties, but this painting was my meditation in which I could process my frustrations about my own future and the world’s future in a way that let my mind flow and express. In this work, I am trying to convey that even in the face of doom or catastrophe or big change, fostering creative hope and a sense of wonder for the world through play and color is a way of providing a platform to engage in conversations surrounding ecological anxieties.


SFAI: How does this piece relate to your other work?

HSJ: The piece relates to my practice in its entirety, just pushed to be more dimensional and suspended to allow the piece’s shadows to glow. My other work is dealing with similar subject matter, thinking about intricate biotic communities and giving them eyes. This piece has the most obvious eyes out of all of my work, where they usually live a bit more subtly. But this piece has a large eye in an oceanic peak, dripping tears. I use the eyes in all of my work, adding them to nonhumans or entities that would most often not seem like spirits or specters or subjects rather than objects. However, through challenging anthropocentric ideologies, I provide a platform to engage in solidarity with nonhuman entities, locking eyes and connecting the innately connected.


To see Heinrich Events: Sticky Spots and Rising Seas and other works by Hayley, come to her show, Spectral Prisms and Hot Ice, on view this weekend at Younhee Paik’s Studio for Art and Music. For more information click here

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