When she was a child, Trea Jensen would gaze at the night sky, captivated by the moon.
There was something mesmerizing about it – the ever-changing shapes, from a sliver to a disc, the varying colours, sometimes pink or blue, sometimes golden, and the occasional illusion that made it look huge near the horizon.
One aspect of it, however, never changed for Jensen: the moon was female, unlike the very male sun.
After she learned how the moon’s gravitational pull causes tides to rise and fall, and how it affects moisture in the soil, causing seeds to swell, resulting in greater germination, her interest continued to grow.
It was perhaps inevitable that this childhood fascination would become represented in her work as an artist.
What is surprising is how long it took. It wasn’t until 2010, decades later, that the idea implanted itself. It lay fallow for five years, before inspiration grabbed her, refusing to let go.
Her moon series preoccupied her for four years. Art lovers can assess the results in Jensen’s latest exhibition, “Moon Beings”, which is being presented at the Jasper Cultural & Historical Centre, tying in with Women’s History Month.
There are 23 pieces on display; some are in watercolour, some in acrylics, some feature both mediums.
What unites them are the striking use of colour. They are frequently whimsical and playful, and each has a story to tell. The female faces in the moons pull the viewer in, setting the tone for the paintings.
“I’m thinking of writing a story book about them, or a set of poems,” says Jensen.
Born in 1964 in Calgary, Jensen, from Eastend, has lived in different parts of western Canada, including Denman Island and Hornby Island in British Columbia, and the Canmore/Banff area.
A self-taught artist, she says she has always been interested in expressing herself visually. Familiar themes run through her work: nature, female deities, fairy-tales, ancient text, and hidden symbols.
Her creativity has also expanded into other fields – playing guitar, singing, song-writing, and facilitating African drum circles, as well as exploring Irish and Middle Eastern percussion. Her life took a dramatic turn after she survived a potentially fatal illness and started on a journey as an ”energy medicine healing practitioner”; she achieved her Reiki Level One and went on to complete Reiki Levels to Usui Reiki Master Teacher, before receiving her Karuna Reiki Master Teacher levels.
This energy medicine experience influenced her art, teaching her the power of meditation – a transformative state that helps her bond with the subject matter. When she began her moon series, for instance, she was able to connect with the moon.
“I formed images in my mind, which I then transferred to the canvas,” she says.
In 2007, Jensen moved to Eastend after falling in love with the landscape and the Cypress Hills. It happened as she was driving with her daughter, Bronwyn.
“The undulating hills drew me in,” she says. “I was gobsmacked, and said to my daughter, ‘would you like to live here?’ She was just 15 at the time.”
Jensen threw herself into Eastend’s thriving art community. In 2008, she founded AGES (Artisans Guild of Eastend and Surrounding Areas), using exhibition space in the Eastend Regional Library. She also creates exhibitions and programming for Sask Culture Days, was involved in Visions of Eastend, and teaches local art classes, her students ranging in age from 3 to 99.
She counts Bronwyn as her youngest ever student.
“She was just 1 when she started,” she says. “She was sitting in the highchair, and I gave her paper and crayons. She drew a perfect circle.”
Jensen speaks proudly of Bronwyn, now an established artist in British Columbia whose work is heavily influenced by the fairy-tale culture of her European heritage, and the archetypes of mythologies.
“Bronwyn is an extraordinary artist,” says Jensen, who has held joint shows with her daughter.
Compliments are something Jensen herself has received through the years, with her paintings displayed in exhibitions throughout the province and in Alberta.
One of her newest admirers is the artist Linda Gordon, whose work has also just gone up in the Jasper Centre. It will be exhibited until the middle of December.
“I want to tell her how much I enjoy her art,” Gordon told the News-Times.