"I Did Lily Getting Washed" July 2021 Issue 1
by Nancy Coleman
Ken Lundemo’s work has a compelling sensuality. Take, for example, Lily At The Bath. How can you not feel how much the elephant is enjoying her wash down? Asked about this, Ken, who turns 90 this month, said “Yeah, I don’t think you can be an effective artist unless you are sensual. You have to have an imagination that feeds off the experiences you have. It doesn’t have to be profound. ”
But back to Lily. Ken said that his idea for the sculpture, which is part of his “70 Years of Making Art, A Retrospective” featured at Collective Visions Gallery this July, came from his watching “a little session on the Internet that was a show about the Mahouts [https://www.mahouts.org] taking care of their charges. One elephant was down on all fours and getting a wash down, and the elephant looked like it was having such a good time, it stuck with me. I did Lily getting washed.”
How cool is that? Someone who is 90 and having a retrospective of seventy years of making art, finding inspiration on the Internet—after having his beginnings with making art during his high school years working with his dad making fishing tackle. His dad worked on and off for the Navy in Bremerton, supplementing his income selling lures, flashers and bait spoons made in his basement studio. He also made feeder skiffs, all of which Ken helped to create. “I picked up on a lot of that. He had the material there, the tools, the examples and what you can do with it. I learned to turn that into a craft—making things I could sell or use. I would work finishing, soldering, shaping, polishing stainless steel and some brass. So I learned to work with sheet metal and the tools. “
Most importantly, as Ken acknowledges, “If you’re fortunate to have a good example that you’re close to, that really helps and can put you ahead.” Another influence on his choosing art-making as an essential part of his long life were his teachers, starting with “a tall, lanky redheaded 5th or 6th grade teacher” (note the sensual description of memories that are now of many decades ago) who encouraged Ken to keep painting, drawing and entering contests.
This kind of encouragement from teachers continued through high school for Ken, and in particular with one in junior college, Henry Blass, a painter, who took Ken under his wing. “I was very lucky to have somebody—he and his wife—who passed on the graces of being a professional working artist. I learned that you didn’t have to be pounding on the rock all the time; you could take a break and have a beer with lunch. I learned to design and execute plans with the material and the landscape that was available there.” Working with Blass at Blass’ summer beach home, Ken learned plumbing and wiring and built a Japanese garden with pools and falls.
All of these experiences contributed to Ken’s approach to art-making. As a kid working for his dad, he used the tools and materials to fashion rings and bracelets. It’s clear that his later experiences with wood and wire evolved into art, too. And he learned to love drawing with charcoal and other mediums in school and on his own. His many years’ experience working for the telephone company as a lineman, cable splicer, inspector and more, furthered his knowledge of mechanical things and tools, as did his years in the Navy. Add to that Ken’s many decades of constructing studio space, repairing homes, landscaping and frequent fishing in the nearby waters. Ken Lundemo is a man who transforms everything into Art.
It’s been a long time. Why does he keep making art after all these years? “Well, if you’re an artist, that’s what you do.”
And now he wants to share it with you, his friends. His retrospective exhibit will include the his wood carving, of a mother and a child, c. 1955; charcoal drawings; graphic works; copper abstracts made with heat and acid; and ceramic and wood sculptures. And, of course, Lily At The Bath.
Come meet Ken on First Friday, July 2, and see “70 Years of Making Art, A Retrospective” at Collective Visions Gallery, 331 Pacific, Bremerton.
P.S. Happy Birthday, Ken!