“The Spaces Between”, Jen Unekis at the Lawrence Arts Center, 2019 Photos by Aaron Paden


Jen Unekis was born in Los Angeles, California in 1964. She lived in a classic Southern California home with a pool, play house, citrus trees and a built in trampoline in the back yard. At the age of 4 her father decided to return to his roots in Kansas and she moved to a 100 year-old farm house that had sat vacant for 5 years and had been a wonderful home to the local wildlife.  Since the farm was in extreme need of repair, for the next 10 years of her life her home was a constantly changing environment. Horse hair plaster & lathe walls, exposed stairs and half finished projects were the style of decorating in her new home. And plastic sheeting became a favorite material for just about everything, including doors, windows, and walls to keep out the drafts. Even tablecloths were made out of it. Life had changed from one of comfort to that of a struggling farm family. But the lack of life's creature comforts is probably what sparked Jen's creative spirit. Her world was 40 acres of land to explore, full of odd objects to cherish. A graveyard of old farm machinery was one of her favorite spots.

After leaving the farm and moving to many locations (and attending three different high schools in three years) she landed back in Kansas, moved to Lawrence and enrolled in KU. After studying Art and Design with an emphasis in ceramics she began creating primarily works in clay. That changed to multi-media work in 1988. Today she lives in a little yellow bungalow near the river with her daughter Adeline and husband David. Her recent work has become a study of color and texture working primarily acrylic, graphite and china pencil on board.

Jen was the 2019 Lawrence Arts Center Benefit Auction Featured Artist. She has been awarded the Jury Prize (Best in Show) at the 2019 Smoky Hill River Festival, Best In Show for Painting at the 2018 Prairie Village Art Fair, Best in Show at the 2014 Lawrence Art in the Park, Grand Prize winner at the 2013 Art Westport and 1st place in 2D at the 2012 Lawrence Art in the Park. Jen's work has also won placement awards in the Kansas Visions show, the LOYO show and the Lawrence Art Guild's Art in the Park.