Pandemic brought a gallery owner home to his inner artist

Harriet Howard Heithaus
Naples Daily News

Chad Jensen had an epiphany that only would come during a pandemic.

The artist turned gallery administrator and businessman realized he now had time to be an artist again.

As a result, the show that opens in the new Method & Concept gallery this week carries not only works from its artists done during the pandemic, but Jensen's own art. For Method & Concept, the pandemic closure, as financially haunting as it was, came during a time when the gallery was finally moving down the street from its original quarters to the new Collective building on 10 Street South. 

So for months during the gallery's closure, its co-owner had time, and perhaps the need, to go back to the studio. "Family and Semi-Precious"  contains at least five of his works, along with those of nearly a dozen other artists familiar to the gallery's visitors.

"All of our artists have been so excited and so supportive over the  years — and it's taken us a couple years to get into this building after we committed to it," Jensen said of the exceptionally large number.

"It was really important that we brought our artists in and let them see their work in the context of this space, because it really changes dramatically in the context of our other space."

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An idea of that dramatic change is in floor space, which grew from 1,250 to 3,000 square feet. Just as important was its wall height, which whooshed skyward from 9 feet to an airy 20 feet with massive glass for streetside display. 

"I brought in all the works and then for two days I couldn't find my way out of it," Jensen admitted of allocating his spaces. Eventually, a corner pairing of his own plaster creations with the fabric shapes and lines of Kansas City artist Debra Smith broke the logjam, and he had begun working on display by sections by Monday.

Abstract pieces made with fabric by Debra Smith are displayed at Method & Concept in Naples on Tuesday, February 16, 2021.

The number of artists in this show also reflects the pandemic's hardships on them, he said.

"Early on in the pandemic, I thought, the silver lining here may be that, coming out  of the pandemic, artists are just going to be bursting to get work out," he said. "But as the pandemic kind of dragged on and we stayed connected with our artists, we found out that that wasn't really the case.

"We found that there were a number of our artists who were locked out of their studios, who didn't have access. If they were in co-ops in New York or Brooklyn they just physically couldn't be in their spaces.

"And then those who were in their studios might not be in the right head space. They were too worried about other things — family, perhaps. And then, all of their opportunities for sales were drying up a little bit, because there were no galleries open in New York."

"So then we really started thinking more and more how can we present something that — because we do have the benefit of being open here, and with the new space — was an opportunity for us to get all that work in."

The "Family" title is an oblique reference to those artists. Quarantine and pandemic aren't referenced because this is a mixture of old and new; some of the artists simply couldn't create art during the pandemic, he pointed out.

Further, some of the works he received that were conceived during the pandemic have no apparent influence from it.

"Some of the artists were thinking and talking about the pandemic and their feelings about it, and that was influencing some of their work. But some of the artists — some of their work was unaffected, seemingly. They just continued on with their regular practice," he said.

"Even that was interesting to me — how some artists just pushed through, and some decided to take a tangent, to deviate from their practice to have a conversation about, maybe, their feelings, their emotions, their anxieties."

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Sculptures by Jamie Harris, Kate Silvio, Scott Daniel Strickstein, and Joshua Wojick is displayed at Method & Concept in Naples on Tuesday, February 16, 2021.

Jensen wishes they all could have come to the Thursday, Feb. 18, reception. But COVID-19 still has an upper hand in travel abilities. Jensen, with his five works, will have to represent all of them. It wasn't in his plans to be in an exhibition, he said: "I didn't really have anything in mind when I started," he said. "For me, it was almost art therapy."

Jensen' art straddles the line between COVID-affected and and COVID-related. It's affected in that his return to art had to be in mediums he could obtain in an economy that had ground to a halt.

And what Jensen had was plaster — "lots of bags of plaster." He had used it before largely in molds for glass. But it had always been a favorite material for him, he said.

"It has this deep rich history in documenting things — in architecture, in moldmaking," he said. To Jensen, it was a material that should be considered semi-precious. It also turned out to be an ideal material for blending with what else was available. Gravel and the charred wood left over from bonfires at the studio started to make their way into Jensen's art.

Plaster sculptures by Chad Jensen and an abstract piece made from fabric by Debra Smith are displayed at Method & Concept in Naples on Tuesday, February 16, 2021. A new show titled "Family and Semi-Precious" is opening at the gallery on February 18 and will continue through April 30.

"I started thinking of everything in this context of upcycling and resourcefulness and finding beauty in something that most people wouldn't find beauty in, like pallet wood."

His directly Covid-related work includes a plaster tower of puffy projectiles. It's molded from inflated nitrile gloves. For Jensen, they fall into the category of "future relics," small items that were of importance or utility at a certain period of contemporary history. 

The concept came directly from Jensen's reaction to shopping early during the pandemic. 

"I remember that every time I got out of my car, there were gloves lying there," he said. 

Harriet Howard Heithaus covers arts and entertainment for the Naples Daily News/ Reach her at 239-213-6091.

What: Pandemic creation exhibit of artists with ties to Method and Concept gallery

 When: Through April 30; opening reception 5:30-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18

Where: Method & Concept gallery, 111 10th St. S., No. 112, Naples

Information: 239-529-2633 or