Haley Jensen ~ Multi-Faceted Artist ~ Portland, Oregon
1. What inspires, moves or drives you?
I’ve always processed feelings through creation and I’ve always been a deep feeler. Which means I grew up always creating things, finding ways to ride with the tumultuous waves of human emotion and experience. Whether it was ceramics, drawing, dancing, painting, poetry, etc. I found a way to express that which words couldn’t. My own grappling with concepts like death, myself in relation to myself, myself in relation to others, what lies beyond, what it means to be human, why we experience such deep pain in this lifetime. I am a student in this life, always exploring and following the threads of that which catches my interest. Over the years much of those seemingly random explorations have now weaved together into a bigger vision. When people ask me what I do, I just say I am an artist. I am a photographer, performer, designer, painter, sculptor, dancer and the list goes on, but what matters is the steady stream of creative energy, the flow of the divine expressing itself through the human experience. Often when I start a piece I let it create itself. I am driven by the energy which makes beauty out of emptiness.
I’ve always felt that if I have a purpose it is to find ways to offer my raw expression. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. My upbringing also contributed to my need to express. I grew up in a very superficial place and that influenced me a lot (San Diego, CA). I couldn’t stand the fake persona of perfection that everyone adopted. I found ways to see past the superficial and was obsessed with internal work, meditation, deeper wisdom, acknowledging darkness, revealing raw emotion. Moving past superficiality and into a present reality is very important to me and I often feel driven to peel back layers and dig for the roots.
2. What are a few of your favourite things?
Treasures of every kind. I really love bones & dead things, almost everything natural, trees, flowers. I love doing photoshoots because I’m just out exploring in nature with friends. I find lots of treasures on these adventures. I also have treasure hunting in my blood! My grandparents on my dad’s side owned a magic store, my grandparents on my mom’s side collected rare rocks & crystals and my mom’s brother was an antique collector. I build cabinets of curiosity with many of my bones, vials, preserved animals, crystals, & more. I love bones & taxidermy because they are like shells of a once vibrant life. They represent the idea of something beautiful being created out of the void. They are precious. I’ve always just been so fascinated by bodies. Vessels that hold life. It’s a strange and wondrous concept. My favorite smells are Mother E Essential Oils because my mom blended all of them and I have been helping her run that company for a while. EARTH :: GROUNDING is the best blend and my fav smell! Fav animal: My Carpet Python ~ Aleph. She’s the cutest noodle to ever exist.
3. What does an ideal world look like to you?
A world with people who value radical self-expression, civic responsibility, radical self-reliance, leave no trace, communal effort, participation, gifting, de-commodification and immediacy. Recognize these principles? They are the 10 Principles of Burning Man. This is not to say that Burning Man should be our permanent reality, but the knowledge and wisdom surrounding these principles is valuable. How can we value immediacy of the moment? How can we become a participator in society? Are we radically self-expressing? I think that a world where everyone takes care of themselves and cares deeply for each other could solve many of the issues we have today. I try my best to live by these principles. In an ideal world the rich would not exploit the poor. All human beings would have equal rights. Cruelty would not exist. I think that it’s important to realize that cruelty often comes from one’s own dissatisfaction with themselves or their own lives. If everyone put the in work on themselves and worked on individual healing and self awareness, I believe there would be much less cruelty, and much more room for love.
4. What is your “offering”, creative or otherwise?
I take film photographs, I perform butoh & hip hop popping at festivals, I make bleach designs on clothing, I embroider on beanies, I paint shiny paintings of creatures & sigils, I coordinate performance at festivals, and by day I work in housing (to pay the bills). As far as healing & offerings, like I said before I think my offering has to do with consistently finding ways to peel back layers, to show things that aren’t usually seen, to contribute to the cultural conversation of what it means to be a human through artistic expression (whatever form it may take). I also love loving people. I love taking photographs because it’s like a shared prayer or ritual. We find a sacred location, we explore together, create art together, and we share it with the world. That is a really special connection to have with someone. I think I help people feel comfortable in that space, especially when photographing someone can be very vulnerable. I meet a lot of people this way, and deepen relationships too. It’s a ritual of beauty & friendship. To be honest I never really made clothes/swag for other people until now. I started making clothes because I wanted to wear them myself and then all these people wanted to buy them lol. To this day, whenever I make a fav bleach tee in a batch, it always gets swooped first and I beat myself up for not setting it aside. That’s a good thing though! I’m grateful.
5. How can we find your work or follow along with your journey?
Essential Oils: @MotherEOfficial
6. What are your favourite quotes or words to live by?
My mom always said that everyone is doing the best they can at any given moment. It used to always make me angry because how could this person be acting so ignorant or mean and get away with it? But I think it’s more just a way of holding a position of love over hate, knowing that people go through shit and who are we too judge or make assumptions. This doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions, but I’m grateful that this was drilled into me because it helps me consistently practice kindness and compassion.
7. Who are your heros/heroines and how have they impacted your life?
Both of my parents are people I love dearly and have impacted my life. My mom is a strong independent woman who forged her own spiritual path, held positions of power in the corporate world and loved and supported her kids so much as a single mom (still does to this day). She also used to pray for us (me and my brother) that we would be creative when we grew up, because she felt she had missed out on following her creativity so much of her life. My dad is a great person too. He is hard working, loving and has worked as a physical therapist for years. He takes pride in his work because he helps people heal all day every day.
I feel it’s important to acknowledge my parents. We have had differences in this lifetime, but ultimately I am very grateful for their guidance and also to see them grow and become more understanding, wise, honest people. Some artists I look up to: Marina Abromovic, Mari Osenai, Ana Mendieta, James Turrell, Frida Khalo, Louise Bourgeois.
8. How will you leave your mark on the world, both in terms of community and the environment?
I want to be kind. I want to continue to feel and be honest about my feelings. I want to hold safe space for people to feel their own feelings. I think through my artwork I can do this. It’s not about me though, or about my art career being successful. I often feel that I am just a vessel through which the work travels. There’s so much mystery in the universe and in the creation of art. It should remain that way. I cannot take any credit for changing the world, we are all changing the world, consistently. We are all contributing to the collective human experience, to the conversation of what it means to be alive. I hope to contribute honestly and fully. I hope to live long enough to really tap in to the hidden currents of the universe and find gold nuggets of juicy wisdom. And share it. I want to be authentic.
I don’t know how I want people to remember me, how can we know what people think of us? I already have body dysmorphia, confused about what I look like or how I sound. I don’t think that’s necessarily the point. I don’t want to be some iconic symbol of my ego, I would rather help open people up to feel ~ thus open them up for more compassion and understanding for themselves and others.
9. What advice would the present you share with the past you?
Relax. Don’t be afraid to pursue the things you think you aren’t good at, eventually you could be a master at anything. Don’t blame or hate yourself for things that don’t go as planned. It’s going to take years of retraining your mind to love yourself again. You are a human who is deserving of so much love and you have to be on your own side, not make yourself the enemy.
10. What challenges have you overcome and how?
Probably the biggest challenged I’ve faced thus far in my life was having cancer at age 23. They didn’t know how much was in my body for the first week and a half so I spent that time in full melt down, unsure whether I would be given a week to live or a year or what. I could no longer relate to anything on a superficial level. Drama went right over my head. During those weeks I went deep, had a major ego death and sort of started from scratch while figuring out what mattered to me. When the results came back I was diagnosed with Stage III. Which meant it was in my lymph nodes potentially making its way to my organs. I had multiple surgeries where they were able to remove the tumour and most of the lymph nodes in my right groin. At that point there was no indication there was any cancer left so I opted out of further treatment. The whole experience shifted everything for me. Shortly after healing form surgeries I moved to Portland, skyrocketed into the community I love so much today and in many ways it shattered my comfort zone, made me focus on what is important and lit a fire under my ass to get shit done.
Now I am constantly reminded of the fragility of life. And while that sounds beautiful, it can be really hard on a daily basis to wake up and wonder if I am still healthy, or whether it could come back. I am grateful for the experience as a gift to force me deeper into myself and my practice. And whenever I am going through something heavy I remember my strength and know that this too shall pass.