(L–R) Jane Christensen, Redrocks (2018); Kelly Larsen, Soil Soak (2018); Janell James, Me and My Friends (2018).

Desire Lines at UMOCA: Jane Christensen


The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art’s (UMOCA) Main Gallery exhibition, Desire Lines, went up on Jan. 26. The show explores representations of the erosion that living beings exact onto the landscape via creating pathways. Of 15 total, Desire Lines features three local artists, Jane Christensen, Janell James and Kelly Larsen, who discuss their participation in the show.

Jane Christensen

SLUG: Please tell us some background about you as an artist and your present artistic practice.
Jane Christensen: After moving to Utah from New York City, I was disoriented by the silence and the absence of people. While floating somewhere between reality and fiction, I became enchanted by the endless desert. I felt as though I was entranced in a surreal dream sequence I had maybe seen when watching an old film on Turner Classic Movies with my dad growing up. In recent paintings and photos, I have been thinking about the relationship people have with location and how an individuals’ psychology might reflect onto an environment. In 2017, I graduated with my BFA in Studio Art from BYU, and currently live and work in Provo.

SLUG: How does your work in the show represent the landscape?
Christensen: My photo series Escapes is about creating locations to escape to and what might be discovered along the way. I think about how we construct our own fantasies of where we would like to go to get clarity or go to have an experience away from the everyday.

Jane Christensen. Photo courtesy of the Artist

SLUG: Specifically regarding the definition of desire lines being paths created by human- or animal-footfall traffic, how does your work respond to that idea?
Christensen: The photos are more in favor of a deliberate and conscious choice to create your own path rather than an automatic agreement to walk along a prescribed trail. My work embraces the inevitable clunkiness of creating your own path.

SLUG: What mediums do you employ for your pieces? Why did you choose them?
Christensen: I chose to make this series by digitally collaging multiple photographs to create a single landscape image. Images in this series are meant to reference postcards and are 4” x 6”. I’m interested in how the images, at a glance, may seem like an ordinary landscape but soon fall apart as you look closer. I also like the idea of these photos as a “Wish you were here.”

SLUG: What challenges did you face in creating your work for this show, and how did you respond to them?
Christensen: Working on this series helped me let go of a lot of rigidity. In previous work, I felt like I needed to adhere to a lot of structure. This series helped me to reconcile some of my perfectionistic tendencies and grow into a new kind of vulnerability.

SLUG: Given the politicized state of the Utah landscape in light of Bears Ears National Monument and the conversations happening around the landscape, how might your work comment on or participate in that dialogue?
Christensen: During this time, I worry about the disconnection I have and most of us have from our environment. Making work about the landscape helps pull me away from the unrelenting flatness of our devices and the virtual. The lack of protection and care we have for our environment is a tragedy.

SLUG: Besides Desire Lines, how may people see/find your work, whether online, in person or otherwise?
Christensen: Website: jane-christensen.com.

Desire Lines is at UMOCA (20 S. West Temple) through May 26. For more information, go to utahmoca.org.