When he was 10 years old, Gary Jensen ran away from home. For two days, he stayed in the garage of a Hells Angels biker who sheltered him.
"The punch line to that story is that when I returned home, no one noticed I had ever been gone," he says. "From my earliest memories, drawing pictures and writing stories was the best insulation I had against profound loneliness."
Jensen, 51, was born in Salt Lake City and moved to Colorado Springs in 1991, after helping some friends move here. He says he fell in love with the Springs, but also with "the idea that Colorado was not Utah."
Upon moving here, he opened a small business in window-washing and janitorial services. For 20 years, the largely self-taught artist watched his dream of being creative suffocate, in favor of paying the bills.
"I got serious in October of 2011," he remembers. "I had a moment when I remembered a line from a movie while in some grief over the slow death of my creative juices — the line was from The Shawshank Redemption, 'Get busy living, or get busy dying.' Something rose up inside me and I yelled out loud, 'Get busy painting, or get busy dying.' Within two days I had completed the first of 24 paintings that I will be showing [at the Commons Gallery]."
Jensen showed occasionally at coffee shops and smaller venues before approaching Abigail "Abby" Kreuser last summer.
"I was pretty taken by his talent and expression," says Kreuser, who curated his show. "The colors, the words, the abstraction. I have been working with local artists [in El Paso County] for the past 10 years now, and haven't seen his style portrayed in this region."
Jensen's paintings are an amalgam of whatever it takes to produce an image. "I don't have a favorite medium," he says. "I like whatever I'm working in at the moment. My paintings contain such things as diced parsley, dry spaghetti, toothpaste, cupcake foils, fossils and ... well, you get the idea. Experimentation and breaking the rules makes me feel alive."
The theme for his show is Faith Images, and his paintings are rich with contrast and message. One of his more recent works, "Apologia Brouhaha," depicts two Christians and two atheists in hot debate.
"I do not come down on the side of the Christians — all four men are eating each other with words. My intention for the most part is to challenge the viewer with images that give up meaning only with some effort," says Jensen. "I hope to present healthy fundamentalist Christianity on a post-modern platter, and throw in a some unhealthy sweets for those who care to have them. I want non-Christians to like my work because of its honesty and relevance to modern life in America."