Jay Steensma (1941–1994) was an American artist sometimes described by reviewers as the last exponent of the Northwest School of art. Jay was a prolific artist who often used unusual media such as latex house paint on brown paper shopping bags. These ‘paper bag paintings’ have become somewhat of a hallmark of Jay Steensma’s work. Jay was well read in history and art history. The subjects of his creations were often borrowed from other Northwest artist’s, and at times, internationally famous artists such as Pablo Picasso. Common subjects of Jay’s paper bag paintings are chalices, fish, small buildings known as ‘relics’, birds, and snakes. Jay also created works on canvas, collages, prints, and sculpture. The later being fairly rare. Jay studied at the University of Washington School of Art under Northwest artists Walter F. Isaacs, Spencer Moseley, Robert Jones and Wendell Brazeau. Jay earned his Bachelor of Art in 1962, then studied with Northwest master Morris Graves. Jay also befriended other originators of the Northwest School including Mark Tobey, Guy Anderson, and others during this time. Jay briefly took a job at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in the early 1960s then returned to Seattle where he taught at the Cornish College of the Arts. Health issues, including manic-depressive illness, affected Jay throughout his lifetime. Jay was at times institutionalized. His erratic behavior alienated Jay from the established art world in the 1970s. There are many stories of Jay’s episodic adventures including Jay rolling up in a taxi cab to a storefront of a known patron and having the driver wait while Jay ran in with a freshly created painting to sell for $10 or $20 so he could have coffee and breakfast. In 1985 Jay was given a show at the Jackson Street Gallery. During the 1980s and 1990s Jay’s works gained critical acclaim once again and his work were included in exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum, Cheney Cowles Museum and the Whatcom Museum.
Jay Steensma died in 1994 at the age of 52.
This work is am acrylic painting on canvas with a collaged polaroid photograph.
Measures 22″ x 30” overall.