James Christensen: Work Left Undone

Work Left Undone is a glimpse into James Christensen’s studio at the time of his death in January of 2017. These 20 paintings will be on display at our Fort Union. They are to see, enjoy, and remember. None of these works are for sale.

The tour of the studio was the highlight of any visit with Christensen, a peek behind the curtain and a glimpse the Great Oz at work. Here one had the chance to see the painting magic - its beginning, its middle, its end - as a work came together.

These paintings reside in a state of creative suspended animation. They are special because they are James Christensen’s final works, but just as importantly, they would be common to a visit to the studio at nearly any time in the artist’s career.

At any given time Christensen could have around his studio 15 to 20 paintings in various stages of completion. They would be as small as three by five inches and up to six by eight feet. They would reside on sheets of paper, canvas, and most often, Masonite. Here, the fantastic, the heavenly, and Shakespearean could be found mixed in with great beauty, fable and lore.

Work Left Undone requires the viewer to engage in a more participatory journey of the imagination. With some of these works James had spoken to others on what he was painting. Others were part of broader concepts he had long wanted to explore. We can tell you something about them.

And then there are those that are so familiar, so Christensen. Yet, we are left to guess how they would end, what more James would have added, and, then how he would have completed the work together with a title that made it complete.

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I. The Tree of Life, a ladder, and this woman’s reaction indicate perhaps her harvest is the love of God.

12"x 12"

II. Conceivably a distant relative of the Evening Angels, this angel and her gown represent night descending over the country-side. James spoke of the idea being inspired by the artists Christo and Jean-Claude, whose sculptures often entailed draping the countryside in cloth. 

14” x 16” 

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III. Tapping into the essence of his subject’s inner beauty is what makes Christensen’s figurative work so outstanding – even in an incomplete work such as this.

11” x 14”

IV. Apostles – the beginnings of a project capturing all the Apostles. Who each is or was intended be is a mystery….?

8” x 10”

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V. Apostles – the beginnings of a project capturing all the Apostles. Who each is or was intended be….?

8” x 8”

VI. Apostles – the beginnings of a project capturing all the Apostles. Who each is or was intended be….?

9” x 6”

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VII. Apostles – the beginnings of a project capturing all the Apostles. Who each is or was intended be….?

6” x 9”

VIII. Mary and the Annunciation – The reaction a young Mary to the visit by the angel Gabriel announcing she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus was a subject Christensen returned to numerous times over his career.

22” x 16”

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IX. Small works are as intriguing as the larger ones

4” x 5”

X. An elvan beauty takes form

11” x 14”

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XI. Complete or incomplete? That is the question.

6” x 7”

XII. Another work of beauty in its early stage

9” x 12”

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XIII. A rose by any other name…visualizing his idea

5” x 7”

XIV. A Christensen bird with Central American influences

11” x 11”

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XV. Barely past the laying in of color, a masked fish makes an appearance at the Masquerade Ball

10” x 8”

XVI. Like a thickly-clothed puffy character, the most ornate instruments obviously make the most wondrous sounds

9” x 12”

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XVII. A work of Christensen’s is always an invitation to re-imagine the possibilities of common-place things, more commonly known as “What if…”

6” x 12”

XVIII. Fans will recognize an echo of False Magic here. But unlike that painting, this somewhat mechanical lunar object is guided by a more enchanting figure.

10” x 8”

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XIX. A ship in passage over a landscape as opposed to on it is certainly classic Christensen. If that floating ship is fish-like, it is all the more magical. Elizabethan characters, broomstick oars and a destination unknown.

11” x 12”

XX. The Problem with Wings/The Trouble with Wings – Doctrine may state angels have no wings, but to an artist with the love of classical art such as Christensen, wings on angels were about design and symbolism. He was creating this work as an homage to good friend who would often comment on an extraordinary painting’s drawback being a “problem with wings.” 

12” x 18”

Discover the Widow's Mite

The Widow's MIte

Works Left Undone & The Widow's Mite are Display at

Fort Union Havenlight Gallery, Upstairs Inside Deseret Book

1110 East Fort Union Blvd. Midvale, UT