Jenna von Benedikt is an English painter with an impressive collection of abstracts and a series on birds. Her “passion for art is inseparably connected to faith and family, and explores the physical, spiritual, and metaphorical landscapes we find ourselves in.” She studied at BYU and the Santa Reparata International School of Art in Florence, Italy. von Benedikt, her husband, and her four children now live in Utah. She and her father support recently promoted Watford.
You grew up in England. I moved to the States as a teenager. People have asked me if that was hard, but I loved the adventure, so no. You could count on one–possibly two–hands the entire number of youth in my LDS ward in England and I attended an all-girls, uniformed school in my village north of London. My family, including our horse, uprooted and transplanted ourselves to Provo, Utah. I was blown away by the massive trucks–you know, anything bigger than a F-150 pickup, because economically-sized cars were the family norm and public transport so available in England.
Homes and architecture are completely different in England, and I have always missed that. I traded emerald green grass for sage brush and spectacular mountains. Needing a place to keep our horse, I soon became acquainted with several cowboys that have taught me to appreciate the American Western culture that is prevalent here. High School was fun and students seemed very patriotic… It was unreal to me that you could actually do seminary during your school time. I used to go once a week, and home study the material. The dating and dances combo was strange to me, and asking people to go out with you in these hilarious, sometimes embarrassing ways was a little awkward, but hey, just being a teenager can be awkward.
What was your experience like at the Santa Reparata International School of Art in Florence, Italy? My experience there was during a semester abroad, where faculty from BYU and from SRIA interacted. We took part in print making, painting, and drawing classes in an incredibly beautiful facility and collaborate in a group show. The most significant part to me was the environment of the school and and its stones-throw distance to many historical sites within Florence and the art we were able to see there. The architecture throughout the city is breathtaking. I spent a lot of time on the streets drawing and experimenting with watercolors. Sometimes it can be easy to focus on producing a specific piece of art and forget to enjoy the creative space around you, and the location facilitated an awareness of the cultural environment. It is a place designed to accentuate every part of the creative process–indoors or outside, even if simply sketching & drumming up ideas in the flowering courtyard, listening to the fountain, and soaking up history.
Explain your bird series. A long time ago I looked up the definition of Jenna. It means ‘little bird.’ Other meanings have referenced ‘heaven’. So I started drawing and painting birds as self portraits, and as characters I read about in the Bible. My painting ‘The 11 tweeting the whereabouts of the 12th’ reflected the apostles and the betrayal of Judas and the things they must have ‘tweeted’ to each other when they found out. This series has definitely sparked an internal study of myself. I liked the idea that birds can go places most humans cannot, or at least look down on a place/situation with a different perspective–which I have to keep working on. It’s as if they bridge the gap between heaven and earth… scriptures often refer to them as messengers. Posing a personal question, what kind of message do I give to others? One of my favorite scriptures (reference Matthew 6:26 and 3 Nephi 13:26) talks about birds in the sense that God knows them and always takes care of them. As His children, God does the same for us, we just have to trust Him.
Your abstracts have such great colour and compositions. Explain your approach when you create these pieces. The abstracts reveal a lot of ideas and provide a place to show bold colours that I don’t use elsewhere, frankly, I find creating them personally refreshing. The lines with the earthy tones in the lower portions of my abstracts reference landscapes–and in a broader sense our connection to the Earth. Above, more open areas can represent the sky… Like the earth, our lives are made up of distinct layers–experiences, choices, memories, etc. The rest of the space I try to leave open to thoughts of change, growth or opportunities, and ideas that we are only a portal or passageway away from another realm or place, be it a more positive place in our lives, or from Heaven–hence the swirls near the top. Like my bird series, these also are about bridging a gap.