Thursday, December 5, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 40

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on March 17th, 2016, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 17, Issue 2 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 17, Issue 2

Honey Paper in Los Olivos showcases photos of Karen Gearhart-Jensen


View images from the exhibit Paper, Plant, Sun.

So many breakthroughs in creative work are the result of accidents or coincidence. The current body of work by Los Alamos-based artist Karen Gearhart-Jensen is no exception, nor is the circumstance that led it to show at Honey Paper in Los Olivos.

Michelle Castle (left) chose Karen Gearhart-Jensen (right) as the first artist to feature in her recently expanded business Honey Paper because of the artists’ shared love of paper and unique vision.

On a recent sunny morning, from the naturally lit loft of Honey Paper—the storefront, workspace, and now gallery space centered around paper-inspired graphic design—owner Michelle Castle and Gearhart-Jensen spoke about the first exhibit to be featured in the recently expanded business.

“So much of what I do here is based on a feeling, something I can’t really put a finger on, and her work immediately made an impression,” Castle said. “I didn’t know anything about her, I just admired her work, and so I reached out to her.”

Castle designed the space to meet with clients, do her work, and to showcase artists who specifically work in paper. Gearhart-Jensen’s focus over the past few years has been on botanicals, she said, but photographed in a very particular way, utilizing translucent Japanese calligraphy paper as a kind of screen through which she captures images of the plants.

As a printmaker and designer, Gearhart-Jensen uses flowers and other plants to make prints, which deliver beautifully stylized patterns when pressed onto paper. It was during one of these printmaking sessions in her home studio that happenstance delivered a stroke of inspiration, she said.

The selections for Paper, Plant, Sun were inspired by the Victorian-era practice of floriography, which used flowers as coded messages of affection.

“I was holding the print, pulling the paper back to reveal the print, and the plant material stuck to it. The sunlight came through the paper and started doing this kind of thing, and that was like, ‘What, what, what is that?’” Gearhart-Jensen said. “And as artists usually do, I saw this little bit of visual information, and it just got me.”

The exhibit, titled Paper, Plant, Sun, is an exploration of this idea, Gearhart-Jensen said. Photographs of various flowers pressed up against the white, foggy paper are outlined in large, white frames, which is a spectacular choice given the fact that Honey Paper’s showing area’s walls are stark white.

The delicate and graceful forms of several flower species peekout, as if through a thick mist. And this is only a small portion of her collection, Gearhart-Jensen explained, curated specifically for Honey Paper and the theme of Valentine’s Day, when the show opened.

Karen Gearhart-Jensen’s work in Paper, Plant, Sun features photographs of flowers pressed against translucent Japanese calligraphy paper backlit by natural light.

“Michelle mentioned that each flower has different meanings, and that’s a Victorian-era thing called floriography,” she said. “There were these floral dictionaries in the 1800s, because in Queen Victoria’s court there were all kinds of things you couldn’t do or couldn’t say. So they would exchange these messages with flowers.”

Selections include lilac, which represent the first emotions of love, or forsythia, which symbolizes anticipation.

The treatment of the flowers, showcased through the calligraphy paper with only the sun acting as backlighting, casts them in a stylized, abstract way Gerhart-Jensen said.

“I think that moment of first discovering the light coming through the leaves, coming through the paper, it’s that ethereal effect that it had on me, and a moodiness of sorts,” she said. “And, you know, a little sexy and mysterious.”

Flowers are already blooming with symbolic meaning, and casting them through what looks like a fogged up mirror only stimulates the imagination even more.

Catch the show
Honey Paper currently features the art of Karen Gearhart-Jensen in the exhibit Paper, Plant, Sun showing through April 10 at the shop, located at 2933 Grand Ave., Los Olivos. More info: 325-9320,, or

That feeling is what attracted Castle to Gearhart-Jensen’s work in the first place, she said, and why it’s featured at Honey Paper, where she makes a business out of beauty inspired by and set on paper.

“There is something sensual about it,” Castle said. “And the same with paper and writing; it’s intimate and sensual. There’s something about that, with even giving a card, when you start writing a card versus writing an email, you’re thinking of that person more when you write a note. So there is that sensual element and intimate element that makes this work fit in here so well.”

Arts Editor Joe Payne does a lot of typing, but still enjoys jotting down notes on paper. Contact him at

Weekly Poll
What do you think of the wind energy project the county Planning Commission approved just south of Lompoc?

It's great. We need more renewable energy sources.
I'm concerned about all of the birds that'll die.
I'd rather the county focus on oil and gas projects.
Visually it's going to ruin a beautiful landscape.

| Poll Results