The Problem With Wings
The tour of his studio was the highlight of any visit with James Christensen, a peek behind the curtain and a glimpse the Great Oz at work. Here one had the chance to see painting magic – the beginning, the middle, the end – as a new work came together.
At any given time Christensen could have around his studio 15 to 20 paintings in various stages of completion. They would be as small as three by five inches and up to six by eight feet. They could be found on sheets of paper, canvas, and most often, Masonite. Here, the fantastic, the heavenly, and Shakespearean could be found mixed in with great beauty, fable and lore.
The Problem with Wings was one of these works in James’ studio at the time of his untimely death in 2017 and resides in a state of creative suspended animation. It was perhaps the one he was most excited about completing and was the most popular piece in Work Left Undone – a gathering of those paintings in his studio when he died.
While we are left to guess at what more James would have added to the painting, we are quite certain of the story behind it. Doctrine in James’ church states angels have no wings. But, to an artist with the love of classical art such as Christensen, wings on angels embraced design, myth, and symbolism in a heavenly language immediately recognized by all.
The Problem with Wings was being created by James as an homage to good friend and avid fan who would embrace a new painting as “extraordinary” but also obliged to let him know there still existed, as far as certain things were concerned, a “problem with wings.”