Hometown guy to bring rock and roll art to the Blanden

-Messenger photo by Olivia Hanson
Jay Christensen, formerly of Fort Dodge, poses next to a Fort Dodge city limit sign at the Sign Forest in Watson Lake, Yukon. He suspects this was put there by a soldier from World War II from Fort Dodge. The sign forest was started by WW II soliders when they were building the Alaskan-Canadian Highway in 1942 for fear of a Japanese invasion.

Fort Dodge Senior High graduate Jay Christensen will showcase his collection of rock and roll photographs he’s taken at many concerts throughout the United States in an exhibit at the Blanden Memorial Art Museum called, “This One Goes to 11: Images of Rock.”

The exhibit will be in the second floor gallery of the museum until Sept. 29. The reception for the exhibit is 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 2. The reception will feature a performance by local musician, Kris Karr. Refreshments and light hors d’oeuvres will be provided.

The title of the exhibit comes from a rock and roll movie called ”Spinal Tap.” Christensen said that in the movie, a character called Nigel Tufnel, played Christopher Guest, was in an interview with Marty DiBergi, played by Rob Reiner, talking about his amp. Tufnel told DiBergi that his amp goes to 11 and DiBergi responded, ‘Why don’t you just make 10 louder?’ Then Tufnel responded, ‘Because this one goes to 11.’

“The name of the exhibit also plays into the humor of Jay’s personality,” Eric Anderson, executive director of the Blanden Memorial Art Museum, said.

Christensen is what he calls ”a recovering journalist.” He started his career in journalism in Fort Dodge at The Messenger while still in high school. He made a career out of it and majored in journalism, first attending Iowa Central Community College and then the University of Iowa in Iowa City. From there, he worked at the Colorado Springs Sun, the Sacramento Union, the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and went to work for more than 20 years as an editor at the Los Angeles Times before he was laid off in 2008.

-Messenger photo by Olivia Hanson
Eric Anderson, executive director of the Blanden Memorial Art Museum, shows Jay Christensen’s photo of Sebastian Bach of the band Skid Row, in Christensen’s exhibit at the Blanden, “This One Goes to 11: Images of Rock.”

While in the journalism and media business, he found a love for photography that grew extensively after he was laid off. He has chronicled many events and places such as the Rose Bowl, the Iditarods in Alaska-which he loves to travel to and take pictures of. He also just recently shot the Kilauea eruption in Hawaii.

Another thing that Christensen loves is music and going to rock concerts something that he frequently does as ‘a recovering journalist.’ He attends the rock concerts out of sheer enjoyment for the music and has captured numerous rock stars in their most energizing elements, which is where the exhibit comes from.

“I’ve always been into music and I love seeing live music,” Christensen said. “There’s nothing better than seeing a live act. I’m like the musicians – they love performing, I enjoy the hell out of watching them play.”

The exhibit features artists such as Spinal Tap, Journey, Sugar Ray, ZZ TOP, Chris Jericho who is a WWE wrestler, Fozzy and more.

“I think it’s something different, something neat,” Chistensen said. “It’s certainly not for everybody.”

The fact that it’s not for everybody is particularly the reason that Anderson wanted to feature it in the Blanden.

“One thing it does, it brings in a whole new demographic of people that are interested in rock and roll and music,” Anderson said. “But also the Blanden has always been about diversity and so we try to bring in images and artwork that celebrate that diversity.”

Anderson said it also celebrates the history of both Iowa and Fort Dodge being strong promoters of music.

“Fort Dodge in general has been a very strong supporter of music,” Anderson said. “Not only with Karl King being a part of Fort Dodge’s past but also with Shellabration and all of that, bringing in music performers.”

Although Christensen lives in Sherman Oaks, California, he frequently comes back home to visit his hometown of Fort Dodge. He still owns his parents’ home, whom have passed away, but he is proud of his hometown and wanted to give back to it by showcasing his art at the Blanden.

“I’m very much connected to the community,” Christensen said. “This was an opportunity for me to give something back to the community and I think that’s really important. It’s important to remember where you’re from and who you are and Fort Dodge is a unique town. There’s really no other city quite like it. It’s like anywhere else. It’s got it’s faults, it’s go it’s warts but it’s a beautiful place.”

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