Artist Spotlight: Jhenna Quinn Lewis

What happens when support for the arts is cut off? As in Jhenna Quinn Lewis’ painting, Secrets to be Lost, the paintbrush and palette dry up, valued old books are forgotten, the candle of knowledge and creativity burns out. The painting was the Oregon-based artist’s cry of sorrow and protest, especially for the loss of funding for art in public schools. As with all her work, the poignant image also contains a songbird; in this case, a male American goldfinch quietly observing the scene.

Finch and Hiroshige | Oil on Linen | 6 x 12 inches

For Lewis, the delicate beauty of songbirds serves as a messenger for aspects of life that hold deep meaning: reverence for nature, a sense of mystery and curiosity, a love of whimsy, gratitude for stillness and peace, and in Secrets to be Lost, a subtle element of hope — that the life of art cannot die. Lewis has been exploring these themes for the past few years and continues to delve into them through her art. “I’m revisiting what I’ve been doing, but pulling more from the depths,” she says.

Secrets to be Lost | Oil on Linen | 20 x 16 inches

The birds in her paintings are frequently perched incongruously but seemingly naturally on antique Asian opium boxes or stacks of venerable, well-worn books. In recent pieces, the bird’s beak may hold a small length of string from which dangles a single key. The imagery reflects Lewis’ return — following the deaths of her husband, mother, and others close to her in the past three years — to greater self-reflection and curiosity about her own and others’ inner lives. Her work asks, What’s inside a box? What does a key mean? Similarly, books and people can only reveal themselves when we take the time and care to look. As the artist puts it, “Locks, keys, boxes, and jewels represent the intrinsic value of what all of us hold inside.”

The Theft | Oil on Linen | 12 x 24 inches

Lewis’ paintings will be featured in a solo show December 13 through 19 at Meyer Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is also represented by InSight Gallery in Fredericksburg, Texas; Trailside Galleries in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Gallery 903 in Portland, Oregon; Hanson Howard Gallery in Ashland, Oregon; and Jones & Terwilliger Galleries in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Palm Desert, California.
— Gussie Fauntleroy

The Tibetan Lock | Oil on Linen | 24 x 12 inches

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