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Leslie Ann (Les) Christensen is director of the Bradbury Art Museum at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County), but she is best known as a sculptor who works in mixed media using everyday objects to offer a vision of universal experience and common responsibility. Her artwork has been exhibited in solo and group shows throughout the United States and in Europe.
Les Christensen was born on July 3, 1960, in Omaha, Nebraska, as the second of four children (and the only daughter) of Dean and Carol Christensen. She attended the University of Iowa, where she received a BFA in sculpture in 1982. She spent a year of graduate school at the Rijksuniversiteit te Utrecht in the Netherlands and then received an MA in sculpture from Arkansas State University in 1993. She taught various classes in the ASU Department of Art in the 1990s before being named director of the Bradbury Art Museum at ASU in 2001.
Much of Christensen’s work pairs seemingly innocent motifs, such as hearts and wings, with simple but unexpected materials and emotionally charged titles. Her sculptures are composed of hundreds and sometimes thousands of virtually identical objects—nails, plates, mirrors, silverware, shoes, and eggshells—the result of a seemingly obsessive accumulation. Through their sheer size, remarkable craft, and striking beauty, Christensen’s works have an immediate visual impact.
One particularly poignant work, The Happiest Day of My Life, is a sculpture of an exquisite wedding dress that appears to be made of glimmering lace; the entire dress, however, is intricately constructed from shards of broken china plates. Another of Christensen’s works, Flight From Servitude, consists of thousands of spoons, symbolic of the mundane, which are fashioned into a pair of wings promising, perhaps, a transformation of domestic exercise into a ritual of human growth. In World View, an enormous oval map of the earth constructed of mirror fragments challenge viewers’ individual isolation, questioning their effect on their neighbors and the environment. Standing in front of this piece, the viewers see their own image reflected not just directly in front of them but also in small fragments of the farthest corners of the earth where their impact would seem unlikely.
Christensen’s work has been recognized with numerous awards and grants, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Award in Sculpture and an Arkansas Arts Council Fellowship Award in Sculpture. Christensen’s artwork has been included in exhibitions at the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington DC; Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art in Malibu, California; Fowler Museum in Los Angeles, California; Bernice Steinbaum Gallery in Miami, Florida; I-Space in Chicago, Illinois; Galerie Quartair in The Hague in the Netherlands; New Orleans Museum of Art in Louisiana; Second Street Gallery in Charlottesville, Virginia; Matrix Gallery in Sacramento, California; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Tennessee; Biennale of Contemporary Art in Florence, Italy; Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center; and Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
The Bradbury Art Museum, where Christensen serves as director, was established in January 2001 by an endowment in honor of Chucki Bradbury of Little Rock (Pulaski County). Artists of regional, national, and international prominence are represented to inform viewers of cultural developments across the United States and around the world. The gallery is also the site of the annual Delta National Small Prints Exhibition, a nationally recognized juried print show.
Christensen resides in Jonesboro with her husband and fellow artist, John Salvest.
For additional information:Colpitt, Frances. “Southern Sensibilities.” Art in America (November 2001): 58–63.
Rubin, David. Birdspace: A Post-Audubon Aviary. New Orleans: Contemporary Art Center, 2004.
Siegrist, Lisa. Women in the Arts. National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC, Summer 2005.
Stammer, Kimberly M. The Eclectic Eye. Los Angeles: Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, 2004.
Nancy HendricksArkansas State University
Last Updated 3/13/2017
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