With so many of his other physical abilities impaired, drawing was an activity that Jens could do, a creative process that gave him a sense of purpose during a difficult time.
“Drawing was my refuge and outlet when I was recovering,” Jens said. It also helped him improve his endurance for focusing, Jens said.
In addition to the therapeutic qualities of marking the contours of figures, Jens also found he was extraordinarily good at his new hobby.
A year ago, he was attracted to a portrait of a child laborer photographed by Lewis Hine in around 1910. From the photograph, he drew a portrait that ended up winning a scholastic award in 2017. Drawing from a picture, Jens said, he could focus on the details and eliminate distractions.
“I feel like the drawing is more meaningful,” he said. “People look at it closer, look at the details more.”
Bigger recognition followed.
Heading to Washington
Jens’ portrait of his grandfather John Huxley was the winner of the Congressional Art Contest held among high school students in each congressional district nationwide. The victory made Jens’ work part of the exhibition of contest winners that will be shown in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. for a year.
“The Congressional Art Contest allows us to celebrate the accomplishments and talents of our young people back at home,” wrote Congresswoman Katherine Clark in an email to the Winchester Star. Jens submitted his work to Clark’s office in Cambridge, where his work was judged, along with 46 other pieces, by an art expert from the Cambridge Art Association.
“He was always optimistic until the very end,” said Janice about her father’s portrait.
For Jens his praised project was a way to remind himself of staying resilient during recovery.
“I hope I can communicate how proud I am of my grandfather,” Jens said. “I hope I can live up to him.”
Now a piece of Jens’ family legacy will carry on to the U.S. Capitol.
“Matt, this year’s winner, honored his family’s history and contributions to the United States military with his art piece, and I am thrilled that my fellow colleagues in Congress and I will be able to enjoy his drawing here in Washington,” Clark wrote.
An inspiring moment
Jens said he likes capturing specific moments because they evoke memories and emotions. In one drawing, he captured one moment in sports history that inspired him to “keep going” during his concussion recovery. In the drawing, the New England Patriots’ Julian Edelman is pinned to the ground during his iconic Super Bowl catch that brought the Patriots a victory, when the team was behind. For the Patriots it was a turning point, just like doing art was for Jens.
A son of engineers, Jens is scheming how he can incorporate his love for art into a trade he can pursue in college. His current plan is to study architecture.
“It’s a way to combine my love for engineering and my love for art,” he said.