University of Montana painter finds abstract harmony in landscape

Cory Walsh

In one corner of a gallery, Eric Jensen has painted an old-growth cedar tree, seen from a hiker’s trail-level vantage point on Ward Creek, the sun shining through the canopy, rendered in keen detail at 89 by 55 inches. In another corner, a cedar on Ross Creek in the Kootenai National Forest is seen on a canvas of a similar height, its bark and branches represented in reds, purple, and green ribbons spanning the canvas’ full expanse.

They’re visibly the same painter, same tree; but varying degrees of realism and abstraction.

“I want to try to open up some new doors on how we’re looking at landscape so that we’re seeing it more for what it is itself than what we want it to be,” Jensen said.

“Tree Line” is Jensen’s thesis exhibition, on view now at University of Montana’s Gallery of Visual Arts (see box), representing three years’ of work from the MFA candidate and former U.S. Forest Service worker.

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“Representation really helps me make a connection with the viewer to really ground them in the subject matter that I’m talking about,” he said.

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