‘Petals Interpreted’: Solo Exhibition by Jennifer Rasmusson


Piece from “Petals Interpreted” by Jennifer Rasmusson. (Photo by Heather Hopkins | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Heather Hopkins


Jennifer Rasmusson has spent many years careening between realism and abstract periods within her work. Her latest solo exhibition “Petals Interpreted” on view until Nov. 7 at A Gallery is a look at artistry created from coupling techniques and building upon a portfolio in an organic way.

Stylistic Changes

Rasmusson approaches her new series, “Petals Interpreted,” with an open mind in an attempt to explore the florals she has become known for in a renewed manner. After a 21-year professional relationship with A Gallery, Rasmusson expressed gratitude for the gallery’s full trust and support of her stylistic ebbs and flows. “The gallery has always encouraged me to experiment and grow. Not all galleries are open to a change in style, but I find they get better work from their artists when they are,” said Rasmusson. 

Representative of a Word

This series of works was created from October 2021 to October 2022. Rasmusson’s process began by taking flowers from her garden into her studio space and studying their forms. The works began as expressive line drawings that are evocative of figure sketches. While in the process of deconstructing these florals, Rasmusson happened upon the American Sign Language symbol for “spirit.” Rasmusson was drawn to this sign. She said it was “the beauty of creating such a meaningful word with one simple motion.”

While walking me around her artist reception at the gallery and telling me about this sign for “spirit,” Rasmusson likened her paintings to ASL. “I like that it’s a motion that is representative of a word. Really that’s what I’m trying to do with my paintings, as well, represent a word, idea, or feeling with an image.”

Piece from “Petals Interpreted” by Jennifer Rasmusson. (Photo by Heather Hopkins | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Unfolding in a Slow Dance

After discovering this symbol, she began thinking about the spirit of the flowers she was bringing into her studio. The fluid motion of the sign reminded her of the way, “tulips bent their stems throughout the day, unfolding their petals in a slow dance.” After knowing this inspiration, you can’t look at a painting from this series without seeing that dance unfold in her paint and pastels.

This body of work was an exercise in experimentation for Rasmusson not just in style, but also in technique. When she was unable to find the oil pastel colors she imagined, Rasmusson began dabbling in recipes for creating her own oil pastels. A mixture of pigment, linseed oil and beeswax came together to punctuate and pollinate these new florals.

Multiple Sources of Inspiration

The use of oil pastels helped Rasmusson move from smaller works on paper to larger works on canvas. The artist was inspired after attending Joan Mitchell’s retrospective in San Francisco to go bold and big with the canvas works, but Mitchell was far from the only muse for Rasmusson. She also found Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures reminiscing of the spirit symbol that originally served as inspiration. “Lately I have been looking at the drawings of Mary Cassatt and Degas. I love their delicate line quality. I also am inspired by graffiti and crumbling walls, botanical gardens, Japanese ink drawings, architecture, photographers, quilters and sculpture. There is no end to inspiration!”

Jennifer Rasmusson (Photo by Heather Hopkins | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Perhaps the most intriguing source of inspiration came to Rasmusson while abroad in Amsterdam. In an artist statement video that accompanies the works at the gallery, Rasmusson narrates her experience saying, “While walking through a cathedral I looked up at the tall curved ceilings with stained glass, and thought this must be what it feels like to be a bee inside of a flower.” Rasmusson certainly recreated the spirit of a bee’s vibrant home within this body of work. While studying the large canvases one’s eyes follow her loose linework to see the structure of tulips, peonies and poppies that emerge and melt away as if catching glimpses through a spirit spiral.

When asked what she hopes viewers take away from this series Rasmusson said “I  hope that by looking at the flower in a more abstract way will open thoughts of curiosity about the lines and colors we are surrounded by daily. I hope that every time you look at the work you find something new in it. I truly believe that there is beauty all around us. If we will just take time to really look at all the shapes and colors we see everywhere.”

For a chance to interpret these works in an immersive way, make sure to see the show in person-on view until Nov. 7 at A Gallery.


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