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Gendron Jensen Papers

Identifier: MSS-1068-BC

Scope and Content

The collection consists primarily of Gendron Jensen's personal and professional correspondence, notes, projects, and related publications. Many of his letters, retrieved from the original recipients, are outsized and illustrated. Jensen arranged and organized his own archive, and most of the folders are labeled in his own hand. The letters and business documents contain details of his career struggles as well as insights into his emotional and spiritual development as an artist and a human.

An annotated partial inventory created by Jensen is included in the “Letters and Correspondence” series. Especially useful are his commentaries and key to abbreviations that identify his relationship with his correspondents. His preface reads, "To Whomever it does concern: Humbly so, I deem the repository of my records encompassed by this finding file to be a journey of my soul. The pages of outline are meant to further elucidate inquirers, as much clarity as can be applied. .… As it occurred, my labor of well over eight months organizing everything was attended by sundry emotions in doing so...NOTA BENE: This finding file was completed at 5:25pm, MST, NOV 6-2013."


  • 1916-2019
  • Majority of material found within 1972-2010


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biographical Information

Gendron Lloyd Jensen, "The Boneman," was born December 15, 1939 in River Falls, Wisconsin. Known in his early years to the family as "Butch", he was the second of nine children born to Lloyd Winfred Jensen and Helen Hyacinth Gendron, whose partial Ojibway heritage had a notable influence on his artistic sensibilities. At the age of 19 he entered a Benedictine monastic novitiate in Wisconsin.

Jensen's deep attachment to spiritual principles, fellow seminarians, and teachers encountered during his monastic years are profoundly evident in his subsequent art and prolific, poetic personal correspondence. Jensen joined the U.S. Navy at age 21, but was soon discharged because of an emotional breakdown. In 1963, he enrolled at the University of Minnesota, Duluth where he immersed himself into art courses and exhibits. After his studies, he returned to the Benedictine monastery to work in its print shop. In his spare time, he began collecting tiny objects from nature, which he would draw with pencil or pen and ink. His first serious work, "Inside Tillie," was produced in the late 1960s.

He spent the next few years in near isolation on an abandoned mink farm south of Grand Rapids, producing most of the works in series. In the late 1970s, he began work on "Seedpod," a multifaceted project calling for the construction of three interconnected dome pods. The domes were to represent cranial, thoracic, and pelvic sections of animals, ranging thirty to sixty feet in diameter.

In 1986, Jensen left Minnesota for a research fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution, where he worked extensively with the bones of whales, which he called "relics." During the 1980s, Jensen met artist Christine Taylor Patten. After a short, intense correspondence, he joined her in the Taos, New Mexico area where they were married on August 15, 1987.

Over the course of his career, Jensen exhibited in numerous venues, published many drawings in books and journals, was appointed a research colleague at the Smithsonian Institution, and was well-known in the art world. He maintained lifelong, generation-spanning friendships and correspondence with family friends, art dealers, publishers, patrons, and monastic practitioners. Gendron Jensen died on July 23, 2019 in Vadito, New Mexico.


18 boxes (18 cu. ft.), plus 8 oversize folders, and 1 oversize tube


The collection primarily contains correspondence, illustrated letters, projects, and publications about Jensen's work.

Separated Materials

Photographs have been transferred to the Gendron Jensen Pictorial Collection..

Titles added to CSWR book collection include:
  1. A Painter’s Psalm: the Mural in Walter Anderson’s Cottage, by Redding S. Sugg, Jr. [ND237.A6426 S9]
  2. Gendron Jensen: the Burning Years, MacRostie Art Center exhibition catalogue
  3. The Horn Island Logs of Walter Inglis Anderson , edited by Redding S. Sugg, Jr. [QH105.M7 A52 1973]
  4. Ojibwewi-ikidowinan : An Ojibwe Word Resource Book, edited by John Nichols, Earl Nyholm [PM853.045x]
  5. The Wolves of Isle Royale: A Broken Balance , by Rolf O. Peterson QL737 C22 P475 1995
  6. Parallaxis: Fifty-five Points of View, a Conversation with Lucy R. Lippard and Rina Swentzell, N394 W37 1996
  7. The Island Within Us, edited by Robert Root and Jill Burkland
  8. Christine Taylor Patten : micro/macro : 261 drawings , N6497 .P38 2006
  9. Poustinia: The Art of Gendron Jensen, film on DVD by Kristian Berg [N44.J46P68 2013]

Processing Information

Jensen organized his papers for an archive in 2013. The original 29 boxes have been compacted to 18.

Large items are shelved in oversize drawers, and 5 extremely large items are stored in oversize tubes.

Photographs have been transferred to a related pictorial collection.
Finding Aid of the Gendron Jensen Papers, 1916-2019
© 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131