Jay Steensma

Untiitled block print 7x5 1991

Born John Jay Steensma in Moscow, Idaho on December 8, 1941, the eldest son of John and Oliva Steensma moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington School of Art in 1959 where he studied with dean Walter F. Isaacs, along with painting professors Spencer Moseley and George Tsutakawa. After graduating, he met and studied briefly with Northwest School artist Morris Graves.

Leaving Seattle for New York after the U.W., he worked briefly as a collections intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Returning in 1965, he taught at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.
Despite the onset of manic-depressive illness which plagued him until his death in 1994, Steensma kept up a frenetic work schedule which resulted in thousands of works on paper, canvas, and related materials. Because of illness, he did not exhibit between his first show at Francine Seders in 1976 and his subsequent "come-back" at Jackson Street Gallery, Seattle, in 1985. After that, attention and recognition came quickly, almost making up for the years of poor health and intermittent institutionalization at Western State Hospital in Steilacoom, Washington.
A memorial exhibition was held at the Henry Art Gallery in 1995 and concentrated on small-scale works. Museum holdings include Smithsonian Institution; University of Oregon; Tacoma Art Museum; Seattle Art Museum; Cheney Cowles; and Humboldt Cultural Center, Eureka, California.