Visionary Art Publishing
Interview by Geoffrey Cormier
April 29, 2005
See this interview on the Visionary Art Publishing Web site
Visionary Art Publishing: Are you an artist?
Jerry: “Artist” is part of who I am. However, I do not feel the need to identify with that aspect of my life as much as I did when I was younger and painting in the studio. My identity as an artist was put to the test and at some level, abandoned completely in 1979 when I destroyed my large body of art and gave everything I owned away and decided to be the inspiration I was dabbling with in the studio. By making that leap into the void I gave myself fully to some larger identity, an identity that is more difficult to define. I can only say that my current identity is not based on my small idea of art or what I think it means to be an artist.
Visionary Art Publishing: Do you create for the sake of art, just to create something beautiful or does the work always represent something higher?
Jerry: I rarely create anything for the sake of making something beautiful, although it is through an inner sense of beauty that creation seems to emerge. Beauty is difficult to define and I don’t want to limit the possibility of having some unseen beauty emerge by sticking to my small concept of beauty. If you look at art history you will see that the most sublime and creative breakthroughs in art have initially been perceived as ugly by our collective, first glance. Beauty is a mystery and to unexpectedly arrive at an inspired moment of true beauty inevitably leaves me in awe.
Visionary Art Publishing: Your work seems to be religious, ceremonial, tribal, ritualistic -- what do they represent? (Choose one or some and describe.)?
Jerry: There is a pattern of deeper meaning that appears in my work. I see this pattern mostly in retrospect, however. I find it interesting that the sarcophagus-like boxes that I have been creating over the years should have emerged from my particular path as an artist and as a human being exploring the frightening territory that I have explored. I have come to the conclusion that the high art and the cutting edge of the creative human experience exists in one’s willingness to face all that the psyche perceives as limiting or frightening. The ego may interpret such an experience as sure death to its existence and this may actually be a correct in assessment. The ego’s metaphorical death seems to be the territory where my greatest inspirations are born. I find it curious that I should have inadvertently arrived at an art form that interprets and translates this discovery into three-dimensional art. My coffin-like boxes are perceived by some, as “spooky” and may actually look everything like “death;” yet, they are whimsical, playful and full of life. This paradox, you might say, is ritually and reverently tended in my creative process. Holding this paradox is the holy science of creation.
Visionary Art Publishing: Does the art have any accompanying rituals -- during its creation or after?
Jerry: I live my art like a prayer. In that way there is really no before or after. It is an ongoing process. There is the initial waiting and watching and the gathering of materials. This is all done with reverent watchfulness. That, in itself, is a ritual for me -- an ongoing, living ritual. As a work of art later makes it’s way into the world, this ritual-watchfulness continues.
Visionary Art Publishing: You started as a known artist in New York. After destroying your body of work you moved on. How have you ended up? (Where are you physically and mentally?)
Jerry: I have ended up feeling blessed by the experience. I say this in all gratefulness and humility and not out of any sense of personal or egotistical sense of accomplishment. Life for me now is the product of some final victory over creative limitation and ultimately over the limits of “death.” At this point I feel my life is a creative celebration that is based on complete loss and surrender. Yogananda poetically explains this paradox well by saying, “To set out on any holy purpose and to ‘die’ along the way is to succeed.”
Visionary Art Publishing: Would you do it again?
Jerry: Without hesitation! I must, however, say-- if, as young idealists, we knew what we were getting into when we chose the path of art most of us would have second thoughts! I do, however, believe any path we choose and bring all of our heart and soul to, will inevitably lead to some final expression of death and resurrection. There is no easy way around it, except to live a fear-based mediocre life of limitation and avoidance.
Visionary Art Publishing: What is your basic approach to creating a piece of art? What is your routine, materials, technique?
Jerry: My basic approach might be best described as Wandering. I follow any shimmering allurement that presents itself--objects that I run across might spark an idea or an idea might form a poetic link with a thought I may have had that same day. A conversation or even a dream may link to some original allurement. Many things stir into the mix in the process of creation for me. There is a coming together that begins to build a cohesive whole. The way an art piece develops is a discovery--one thing leads to another. Often a whimsical idea will come, which I will then incorporate or someone will give me an object that fits perfectly into a piece. It is as if the wind is in my “creative sails” and physical creation of the piece happens quite easily. There also seem to be natural, creative cycles where I feel there is a window of opportunity and intuitively sense that the piece I have been working on, sometimes for months, must get done NOW. When I get this feeling I will often work late into the night until I finish it. What I find interesting is, that often when I finish a piece in this way, the world seems to re-enter my space and my energies are required elsewhere. If I had not finished the piece when I did, the creative process would have been interrupted. I have come to trust this cyclical, intuitive process.
Visionary Art Publishing: Do you listen to music? What?
Jerry: I mostly work in silence but I must admit, sometimes I like to listen to music that comes out of street culture – urban rap and hip-hop. There is something raw and alive about this music. It is music that hasn’t lost its wild and dangerous edge. I grew up in a poor, mostly black neighborhood so maybe this also has something to do with the music I listen to when I work in the studio.
Visionary Art Publishing: As an artist, what is your message that you most try to convey?
Jerry: I do have a sense of vision and purpose about my life. However, I don’t exactly know how to define these things in answer to your question. I find it a bit ironic and something of a cosmic joke that as an artist I have been acknowledged more for destroying my art than I ever was for creating it! In laying my dreams and precious attachments on the altar, with a willingness to let them go forever, the whole of my beloved creation was sanctified and returned to me in ways that I could not have imagined. This paradox embodies the true spirit and deeper meaning of any “message” I might have to offer the world. The word “sacrifice,” means, “to make sacred.” I want my life and work to be a gift to others -- an expression of what we share of the sacred.