Exploring the Shadow
(in Jerry's words)
The earliest body of work, which includes some of these paintings here, represents an exploratory time of my life as a painter and seeker. These photographs of the earlier artwork were taken in the 1970’s. Mark Sadan returned them to me a few years ago. Mark is the director of the first film done in 1979, The Works of Jerry Wennstrom and co-director of the recent film, In The Hands of Alchemy. Much of this artwork is not included in either of the films and has not been seen since the 70’s.
Painting, as a psycho-spiritual process was the vehicle and this work took me through some of the most mysterious and often terrifying inner terrain that I had experienced as a young painter. I went about this exploration with eyes wide open; walking into any alluring possibility that I intuited might offer the way to greater insight or liberation.
Some of the areas I explored at that time were insanity, suicide, sexuality and death. For example I did an Asylum Shower series of paintings after interacting with insane street people in Manhattan, and visiting an asylum in upstate New York. There was something in the eyes and in the presence of the insane that both attracted and frightened me. I saw part of myself in the people I met and didn’t quite know what to do with this perception.
Expressing the literal, surface appearance of insanity through painting was a way of accepting and penetrating the repulsive surface of things, and then going beyond to some place mysterious and even sacred. By consciously choosing to paint and open myself to the insane, I was finally able to perceive the inherent innocence at the core of human behavior-my own, and other people’s. The crowning jewel and gift of this exploration, was an established resolve to seek the face of God under any conditions, and in every difficult encounter involving another human being.
I once read a saying, “It takes great courage to experience great love.” I will add that it does not take much courage to love what is easily loveable, and the rewards may be few as a result. This work was both exciting and liberating for me. Perhaps naively, I expected the work to offer the same liberation to others. For some, the paintings actually had this effect. However, I also had people leave my studio shaken.