GVSU professor displays collection of landscape paintings on campus

GVL / Courtesy - gvsu.edu
Painting by Virgina Jenkins

GVL / Courtesy – gvsu.edu Painting by Virgina Jenkins

Arie Nienhuis

Grand Valley State University art professor Virginia Jenkins has spent more than two decades painting landscapes, many of which are inspired by her travels across the U.S. Now through Friday, March 2, a collection of these landscapes will be displayed in the Red Wall Gallery of Lake Ontario Hall. 

This collection, titled “Landscapes: Color and Light,” is inspired by Jenkins’ travels to the Northwest Coast of the U.S. The paintings showcase many of the coastal areas’ natural landscapes.

“I’m especially fascinated by the transitional area between the water, the water’s edge and land,” Jenkins said. “There is a whole other world of creatures and vegetation in that world that change twice a day.”

Over Jenkins’ artistic career, natural landscapes have been a major focus of hers for a variety of reasons.

“Landscapes combine interests in a number of subject matters that I worked with over the years,” she said. “Most of my work is focused on organic forms and shapes, and those are the kinds of forms that one finds in nature. Part of my work has involved my delight in being outside and experiencing nature.”

Among these paintings, a distinct visual style is apparent: While somewhat abstract, the shapes and colors of Jenkins’ paintings still maintain a recognizable look of nature.

“My goal isn’t necessarily to produce images that are photographic representations,” Jenkins said. “I want the images that I produce to speak to the kind of experience and interaction I had with that particular location.

“When I travel to a site, I document the site and my experiences there with photographs, and I take the photographs back to the studio and either combine the photographs or work from a single photograph.”

Joel Zwart, curator of exhibitions at the GVSU Art Gallery, sees this exhibition as a great way to show the work that professors at the university do aside from teaching.

“The thing I’m most happy about with the exhibition is (that) it’s a way for us to help faculty share their scholarship with others,” Zwart said. “It’s an exhibition of the work that Professor Jenkins completed on her sabbatical. In some ways, this is her way of sharing the product of her scholarship.”

According to Zwart, displaying art created by GVSU faculty is a way to show that the gap between teaching and personal experience is not large.

“It shows that faculty teach, but they also spend time researching, and her research is her work in the studio,” he said. “It’s her work in the field and then coming back from the field and producing artwork in response.”

When it comes to young artists looking to display their art at GVSU or beyond, Zwart recommends attending exhibits like this and socializing with the world of art.

“Come to art openings, be involved in the local art scene, talk to people,” Zwart said. “I know for some people it’s hard, but being social.”

Jenkins also shared some artistic advice: She encourages young artists to hone their craft and skill.

“Really work on exercising daily observational skills and combine that with the ability to objectively analyze what you see, and then combine that with the other skills involved in creating images, whether they be two-dimensional or three-dimensional,” she said.