It was 2020 and the pandemic was raging. Kristina Lenzi was teaching an online drawing class through Weber State University. The students were confined to their rooms and had been assigned an art kit that lent itself to mixed-media drawing: black and white acrylic paint, brushes, charcoal pencils, white pastel pencils, graphite pencils, a pad of watercolor paper, black sheets of paper and cream sheets of printmaking paper.
“I decided to ask my drawing students to do mixed-media drawings in their watercolor pads addressing Covid-19 and how it was affecting them,” Lenzi says, two years later. “I called the drawings ‘art journals.’” Lenzi decided to keep one herself.
It was her first time keeping a journal. “I utilized all of the materials, creating abstractions that screamed of neurons or fractals spiraling into darkness. Each drawing included torn pieces of the cream paper as a last maneuver, and in my mind representing glimmers of hope stitched onto the page. I remember feeling immersed in the drawings, spending hours detailing with black and white pencil lines. All of that detail helped to soothe and comfort me.”
Lenzi, who holds a BFA in drawing and painting from the University of Utah and an MFA in interdisciplinary art from Tufts University, has exhibited in the United States and Europe. A multi-media and performance artist, she founded and curates the yearly international Salt Lake City Performance Art Festival. She says it was unusual for her to spend so much time working on detailed drawings. “… I have spent the last twenty years mostly making fast, abstracted paintings, and performance art. This [art journal] process took me back to childhood when I spent hours, almost daily, making detailed drawings. These art journal drawings were a culmination of all I had learned from my self-taught time as a child, up through art school in college, graduate school and the 20 years of working as a professional artist.
She continued to keep the journal after the semester ended and she and the students shared their drawings. “From my students, I received some haunting, intense and heartfelt drawings.”
Lenzi will be showing with Bryton Elias, a young man she mentors, at the Salt Lake City Main Public Library in June. The show is called Friends, and opens June 17, 6 – 7:30 PM. You can see more of Lenzi’s work at www.kristinalenzi.com and on Instagram.
Commercial and academic settings generally prefer to pigeonhole an artist. Our “Variant of Concern” series cuts across this grain, exploring the practices that may lie outside an artist’s more recognizable output.