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Piece of the Week: ‘Spirits of the Lake’ JMFenner

JMFenner’s painting “Spirits of the Lake” has the rough-hewn surface of a painted wood block. The colors slightly faded, the image worn down – antiqued. The canvas contains an imagined history.

There’s a sense that what the “Spirits of the Lake” depicts is a story like you’d find in some lost illuminated text. A boy greeted by the kind spirits living in the water, guiding him safely across. There’s mysticism to the piece that gives it a warm yet alien feel. When I see a work like this that inspires ideas, I wonder how much of that is the JMFenner’s intention, something that exists in the piece, and how much of it is of my own mind’s making.

"Spirits of the Lake" by JMFenner

In “Spirits of the Lake” I see magical beings coming to the aid of a boy, perhaps a special boy, on the beginning of an adventure. I see a society of people who live on the coast telling stories of lake spirits and how they helped a young boy. I see that story being painted on a wood block to share with those that didn’t witness the event, to keep this tale part of the society’s history. The cave painting of a fictional people.

What Fenner has done is deceptively simple – what detail he placed in “Spirits of the Lake” is slight but important. It’s all about texture and mood here, that ominous symbol circling the figure’s head saying something, but what?

This is the kind of work that I want hanging in my home. A painting that tells a wordless story. Fenner’s portfolio is filled with beautifully soft and thoughtful images like this that are definitely worth spending a few minutes looking through.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.