Leo Jensen collected metal coffee cans for 32 years in hopes artistic inspiration would someday strike. It did a few years ago…
That's why there's a 6-foot, 4 inch tall antique telephone fashioned out of cans in Jensen's sculpture studio. The sculpture, one of the artist's "Caffeine Connection Pfones" series, stands near the body of a coffee can horse that, once it gets a rider and four wooden legs, will become part of a work tentatively called "The Caffeine Cavalier." The rider will be brandishing a cell phone; this Essex resident doesn't shake off a theme easily.
Jensen, and his wife, the artist Dalia Ramanauskas, have lived and worked for the last 4 decades in the brown three-story house set right on Main Street in a small town in Connecticut, which was once a restaurant and still sports an industrial exhaust fan and hood, and is where Jensen creates his large, fanciful sculptures. Up on the third floor, he's created a roomy atelier where he can draw and paint. Ramanauskas has her studio on the second floor, where the couple's living space serves as an impromptu gallery of their work.
Leo Jensen's paintings and sculptures are wittily brash, boldly shaped and brightly colored. "Big Fish Eat Little Fish" is an 8-foot wide, 5-foot tall wall sculpture featuring a series of ever-larger fish caught in the act of consumption. "The Suitor" is a spritely rendering of an earnest young swain, brandishing a bouquet of wooden flowers in his right hand - and a wooden diamond ring and wooden condom in a hidden "pocket" drawer.
There's also a sensual sensitivity to the work, expressed in the delicately carved wooden snout of a horse, the hip gyrations of a 1970’s rock guitarist captured in bronze, the voluptuous curves and arcs of a woman's portrait rendered in glowing oils.
"I haven't had an idea in 50 years," Jensen boasts, saying his artistic inspiration comes from visual images that "pop" into his head. "Pfones," for example, came to him during a walk in the woods. "I saw a vast field of telephones in a myriad of forms, colors, shapes and sizes," he wrote in a piece explaining the series. "They were growing out of the earth, suspended in mid-air, supported by pedestals and lying supine upon the turf. All seemingly altered or distorted by messages wanting to be transmitted."
Jensen is full of visual images waiting to be joyfully and playfully transmitted. "To my mind, making and living with art is the most fun anyone can have," Jensen once wrote. "Art is one of the oldest human endeavors still done for itself alone, and its power to amuse, to move the heart and lift the spirit is magical" ~ By Bill Daley