In the Hands of Alchemy
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Review in Rewind (Nov/Dec 2002) by Ray A. Hemachandra:
In the Hands of Alchemy, a film by Phil Lucas and Mark Sadan, is a portrait of the life and art of Jerry Wennstrom. Twenty years ago, while living in Nyack, N.Y., Wennstrom went on an extensive fast, which he came out of knowing God’s will was for Wennstrom to destroy all his paintings, give away all his possessions and money, and become celibate. He did so. “Only God is real,” Wennstrom says was his realization, and so he had to let all other things go. Surrender leaves a “luminous void, which is the place where everything unfolds,” he says. Now married and living on Whidbey Island, Wash., spiritual artist Wennstrom and his current work are handsomely portrayed in this film.

Wennstrom describes art as “a grand connection of all things ... a complete expression of all aspects coming together” and also says art is “one little piece to a whole puzzle, whereas before (his revelation) it was the whole puzzle and desperately so.” The film gives quick glimpses — and I wish the camera had lingered on them longer — of scores of complex, beautiful sculptures and other art pieces. Friends, fellow artists, and Wennstrom’s wife, Marilyn Strong, comment on his work. Wennstrom built a tower studio in the midst of nature, where the film records him receiving visiting Tibetan monks and showing them his living art, moving sculptures, and other soul works using a wide variety of mediums. “I feel like I’m riding the wave of art rather than having it ride me,” Wennstrom says.

Wennstrom’s work is life-affirming, capturing the soul, inspiration, beauty, and humor of life and human existence. What has he concluded from his experiences? “I feel life now is simply being available both artistically and humanly for other people,” he says. The video ends with a bonus — 15 minutes of excerpts from a 1979 film by Deborah Koff-Chapin and Sadan that show many of the works Wennstrom destroyed. Pair the video in display with Wennstrom’s recently released autobiographical book, The Inspired Heart: An Artist’s Journey of Transformation (Sentient Publications).

Review by Jerry Katz of
"'In The Hands of Alchemy' is a video from Parabola. Parabola you may recognize as a highly regarded magazine. It's a very well done film with an appropriate score. I enjoyed watching it. Jerry's the kind of guy you're going to want to meet just to go out and take walk with and not necessarily say anything. I wish they played stuff like this on television.

I enjoyed this video very much. Jerry Wennstrom did what he had to do. He destroyed his paintings (about which a film had just been made!), gave away his money and possessions, and straight-out surrendered to existence. The video shows a guy who has, as poet David Whyte says in the video, claimed his happiness. If only there were about six billion films like this waiting to be made."

Review by Chris Bache, author of Dark Night, Early Dawn
"When Jerry Wennstrom destroyed his art in 1979, he threw himself into the great unknown searching for a more authentic life. Walking the road of radical emptiness, the result was the emergence of a completely genuine voice, gentle, sensitive to the stirrings of the divine in everyday life, and creative beyond reasonable bounds. Wedding compassion and creativity, In the Hands of Alchemy is a rare celebration of life and the joy of spiritual surrender."