Dean Jensen failed to run away to sign up for the circus.
Truly, as a Milwaukee Sentinel reporter, he was not thrilled about becoming assigned to cover the once-a-year Good Circus Parade. But immediately after he talked with circus historian Chappie Fox and met performers, the environment of clowns and aerialists grew on him.
It fused with his enthusiasm for visual artwork and propelled Jensen on an intellectual and aesthetic journey that would guide to curating a big museum exhibit, opening a person of Milwaukee’s major artwork galleries, and writing guides about circus and sideshow performers.
Jensen died Wednesday from issues of lung most cancers, according to his wife, Rosemary Arakelian Jensen. He was 82.
A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate, Jensen labored for newspapers in Manitowoc and Sheboygan prior to joining the Sentinel in 1967, covering a selection of information assignments, such as the civil rights marches. He also carved out time every single week to write artwork criticism in the period when the Milwaukee Artwork Middle was turning into the Milwaukee Art Museum.
The Sentinel loaned Jensen to the museum to curate “Middle Ring: The Artist,” a 1981 show of art on circus themes that incorporated function by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall and Calder, as perfectly as modern day Wisconsin and American artists, furthermore a balanced swath of posters, banners and circus memorabilia. Soon after carrying out boffo company in Milwaukee, it toured to Columbus, Ohio Albany, N.Y. and Washington.
When Milwaukee Journal artwork critic James Auer asked Jensen why he considered visible artists establish so strongly with circus performers, Jensen told him that culture considers both of them tricksters, striving to place one thing in excess of on them.
Not long soon after that show, Jensen won a mid-profession fellowship to research Italian Renaissance artwork and creative creating at the University of Michigan during the 1985-’86 academic 12 months. He returned to the Sentinel much less intrigued in his previous melange of responsibilities, leaving to open the Dean Jensen Gallery in 1987, initial in the Third Ward, then on H2o Road downtown.
In a 2012 profile of Jensen, Journal Sentinel art critic Mary Louise Schumacher described it as “a gallery for connoisseurs, folks who are most intrigued in the official attributes of artwork, to be positive, but it’s a spot pushed by strategies, as well. His proclivity for inventive eccentrics or so-named outsiders has usually been a hallmark and dependable with his fondness for circus people.”
“He was passionate about so many things — art, tunes, literature,” Arakelian Jensen claimed. He cherished artists and dwelling in the art milieu, she reported.
Jensen showed do the job by nationwide figures this kind of as Chuck Close and Bruce Nauman, but also by several nearby artists, which includes Fred Stonehouse, Claire Stigliani and Reg K. Gee.
“He does not truly treatment what the earth thinks is attractive,” artist Tyanna Buie, who has shown get the job done in the Jensen gallery, told Schumacher. “He understands what he thinks is lovely. It is all about the spot, but in a good way.”
After three many years of showing and marketing high-quality art, Jensen wound down his gallery at end of 2016 to concentrate on creating and other functions.
His publications include “Queen of the Air” (2013), a biography of circus aerialist Lillian Leitzel “The Lives and Enjoys of Daisy and Violet Hilton” (2006), a biography of the well known conjoined twins and “The Most important, the Smallest, the Longest, the Shortest: A Chronicle of the American Circus From Its Heartland” (1975). In 2016, trade publications described that Margot Robbie had signed on to portray the title character of “Queen of the Air” in a movie, but that project has but to appear to fruition.
At the time of his loss of life, Jensen was crafting a nonfiction book known as “The Large and the 50 %-Lady,” about the relationship of two sideshow performers.
In a jocular overview of “The Most significant, the Smallest,” Sentinel columnist Invoice Janz wrote that Jensen “typifies the circus nut. He seems normal but he has circus sawdust in his soul and he feeds his fantasies pink lemonade.”
In addition to Arakelian Jensen, he is survived by his daughters Jennifer and Jessica and his son Dane, and by his longtime gallery assistant John Sobczak, who is now director of The Alice Wilds gallery. A celebration of Dean Jensen’s life will be prepared for this summer time.