Location: Mount Vernon, Ohio
Featured Work: Snow Leopard
Source: 2017-2018 CIVA Sourcebook
From curator Michelle Westmark Wingard. Justin Sorensen’s visually stunning installation explores time, appropriation, and representations of the natural world.
Describe your featured work.
The Snow Leopard is a cat native to the Himalayas. Because its coat makes it extremely difficult to spot in its natural environment, the chance of seeing one is highly unlikely. Last spring, I was sitting in my office staring at a photograph of Mount Everest. I started to think about how calendars frequently feature sublime depictions of the natural world that are then placed in relatively mundane contexts such as the kitchen or the office. Though the photographs can be a means of stimulating a boring environment, they quickly become one more image that is easy to overlook. Personally, I think the calendar as an object is relatively unremarkable, which is what I like about it. I like that we overlook it because it may actually require us to be attentive to what’s happening around us, which may not be much. According to theologian Belden C. Lane, the Snow Leopard is a metaphor for learning how to see in contexts cloaked by the ordinary, day-to-day routines that govern much of life. In other words, the Snow Leopard is always present but never easy to spot. For this piece, I took thirty calendars featuring various depictions of the natural world and hand cut them into 10,958 swatches. Each swatch represented a single day that culminated into a panoptic view of thirty years. By fragmenting each photograph, my aim is to re-present common, commercial depictions of the natural world into an overwhelming arrangement of imagery.
Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to come into contact with a few different elements that just so happen to be passing by in front of me as I’m on my way to do something else. A lot of my work comes out of waiting for that to happen. Or to put it another way, it’s about paying attention to what’s happening on the periphery.
What are you making now?
I recently moved to Ohio from North Dakota, having lived there for almost two years. There is something about tripping across a featureless landscape that has gotten me to reconsider the weight of my gestures. It’s allowed me to reevaluate materials and objects I may have previously dismissed, and then make something out of them. This has enabled me to forego stylistic consistently, which increasingly seems less and less important. All that to say, I’m working on how to ask a good question.
Why do you belong to CIVA?
CIVA is a community of people who are actively seeking to address the space where theology can inform the visual arts and vice versa. How this is accomplished, the range of approaches taken by its members is something that I have found to be incredibly refreshing. It has allowed me to participate in a broader conversation that continues to expand my perspective. For that I am grateful.
Justin Sorensen is an artist based in Central Ohio. Originally from Northwestern Pennsylvania, Sorensen received his B.F.A. from Kutztown University in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, before moving on to complete his M.F.A. at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States, Canada, and Japan. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor of Art at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.