Sometimes finding the truth of one’s work – and one’s life – costs everything. How much of our belief structure, our convictions and habitual behavior are we prepared to relinquish in order to allow space for the utterly authentic to express through our voices and hands?
In 1979, at age 29, Jerry Wennstrom destroyed all the art he had created, gave everything he owned away, and set out to discover the rock-bottom truth of his life. He sensed an inner and outer world in perfect order and became a willing participant in that order – he leaped into the void, the ultimate creative act. He began a life of unconditional trust, allowing life to provide all that was needed. He lived this way for 15 years.
Wennstrom’s wish was to open to the energy of life itself. In releasing the structure of daily habits and routines, he learned to trust and appreciate the significance of each moment. This entailed relying on intuition, listening keenly to the deeper nature of feelings, and wisely observing the ways in which our inner world reflects the outer, and vice versa.
In 1998 he moved to Washington State, where he eventually married Marilyn Strong and produced a large new body of art. Marilyn and Jerry’s charming Whidbey Island home is now filled with his unique interactive sculptures and paintings. Jerry also built a 40-foot meditation tower on his property, which is featured along with his story in a book by Laura Chester called Holy Personal.
Interactive sculpture – 8ft in height
During a trip to Italy I was moved by a few ancient, worm-eaten Confessionals I saw in several of the older cathedrals in Assisi. The oldest ones were small and simple and appeared not to be in use any longer. They were often placed off to the sides of the smaller chapels or in out of the way places. These old confessionals were so well-used over the years that the places where knees touched wood were worn in shape of two half moons. There were places on the hand rest where finger nails dug deep into the wood. The inspiration for this art piece was the power and energy of guilt, angst and forgiveness that these confessionals embodied.
I call the piece Confessional and it is made out of an 8′ X 26″ hollow, cedar log that I drug up from the ravine below our house. The outer, female figure is a double door that opens down the middle and around the face to reveal the life-size, fully carved saint inside. Turning the Danger High Voltage switch that is situated under the lower mask turns the saint into a devil — his halo disappears, little red horns appear out of the figure’s head, a forked tongue comes out of his mouth, a tail wags from behind and his hands offer an apple.
Confessional interior showing ‘saint’.
See more details of this work on the blog (link below)
Jerry’s story is told in his book, The Inspired Heart: An Artist’s Journey of Transformation (foreword by Thomas Moore) published by Sentient Publications and in the Parabola Magazine documentary film called In the Hands of Alchemy: The Art and Life of Jerry Wennstrom. There is also a Sentient Publications DVD with the same name ,which includes a short new film called Studio Dialogue. Studio Dialogue is a presentation Jerry did before a live audience with music by Susan McKeown, sung by Marilyn Strong. Jerry travels internationally lecturing, teaching and presenting his film and work and he writes a monthly piece on the spirit of the times for a New York City consulting firm.
Most of the above information is sourced from – Jerry’s website. The images and his comments about Confessional are sourced from his blog.
Click on the screen shot to visit Jerry and Marilyn’s blog.
14.08.12 + a question about creativity
painting on textured card and watercolor paper, assemblage
cardboard box, Arches watercolor paper, shade cloth, threads, twig, watercolor and acrylic paints, canvas board
460 x 460
This piece began as a watercolor study in the upper garden (kami-no-chaya) of the Imperial Villa in Kyoto.
I loved the pond with its border of perfectly rounded stones, and the way their forms were echoed in the carefully clipped azalea bushes.
All finite things reveal infinitude:
the mountain with its singular bright shade
like the blue shine on the freshly frozen snow,
the after-light upon ice-burdened pines;
odor of basswood upon a mountain slope,
a scene beloved of bees; silence of water…
~ Theodore Roethke
Imagine my surprise to discover that artist, writer and poet Claire Beynon now lives in my hometown – Dunedin, Aotearoa New Zealand – the very city I could not, as a teenager, wait to escape – lured by the attractions of life and culture in North America and Europe. She moved there from Cape Town – living and working nowadays in a gracious old villa overlooking the Otago harbour. What a wonderful addition she is to the cultural fabric of this nowly buzzing city.
Claire’s blog . . . all finite things reveal infinitude . . . is one of my cherished oases of nourishment. I go there for sublime poetry – her own as well as others’, for insightful new thoughts on old topics and artists’ work, for sneak previews of her own works-in-progress, and for an ever-reliable, refreshing, immersion in wonderment.
The Stilled Thread of Flight
Oil & steel strings on canvas
Making art is a way for me to connect the physical and spiritual worlds. It is also a means of establishing connections between people and place.
The foundation of it all is not having to know where I am going. I have to trust that there is something out there and in here that will connect. This trust leads my hand to make visible what is invisible. I start out with nothing. The process itself leads me and at some point along the way, I almost always look back and say “ah”.
… when I work, the work takes me to the necessary place of stillness and calm that is essential to my overall wellbeing. Whilst there, trust is like a fountain that energizes me and fills me up. I find I often create visual compositions that counter the outer chaos. Curiously, the more chaos and busyness there is in my outer world, the quieter and more balanced things seem to become in my internal worlds and the steadier and clearer my work becomes. TS Eliot wrote: “At the still point of the turning world is the dance…” I reflect on these words often.
Excerpts from a conversation with Lawson Bracewell
No hovel is safe from it, no prince may depend upon it,
the vastest intelligence cannot bring it about.
~ James McNeill Whistler
You may have noticed a new button at the bottom of wonderingmind studio’s pages – the “arting happens” button. I very seldom place buttons on my blogs – especially those that take the reader off-site. So this is an exception, and one I’m really delighted about.
‘Monica’, the writer and artist who creates the stunning ink and chai blog, has put up a page that’s so totally cool and on beam with my own experience that I want to share it. I want to do my bit to get the word “arting” into the dictionary. As she points out, it just requires usage. If you resonate with the reasoning and want to be involved, click on the button here, or at the bottom of any page, to go to her site and grab a button. Then put it on your own pages, and start using the word freely.
From the ink and chai blog:
Art is a verb and I believe arting ought to be included in the dictionary.
I am often arting.
That’s some fabulous arting.
A focus on arting also indicates that the process, the doing, the journey,
is much more important
than the end result.
For some it means arting is enough and sales are irrelevant.
For others it might mean making cash out of art is great but will never ‘sell out’
by creating just for the audience.
Sharing the process, techniques, ‘mistakes’, and WIPs (works in process,)
are the best initiators of dialogue,
rather than simply showcasing the finished product.
Join the Arting Happens campaign?
To encourage arting as a dialogue between creators.
To have arting included in the dictionary.
(it simply requires wide usage)
Grab a badge and link back to this page.
Art is a verb. And in my experience, so is the artist. In fact, the self – in all its guises – is probably the busiest verb in the business. Have you noticed?
The noun of self becomes a verb.
This flashpoint of creation in the present moment
is where work and play merge.
~ Stephen Nachmanovitch in Free Play
Irish artist John Macormac came into my view via interaction with this blog. I was delighted to meet another artisan who shares some of my idiosyncrasies – there’s a magpie here too, gathering bits of information and stuff, never disposing of anything, and always amazed that she has the ‘perfect’ bit of (whatever) for the unfolding of a making. The way he works in layers – scraping and over-painting, cutting up and creating anew – is right up my alley. Hmmmm. Might have to drop in to Belfast some time soon!
My work deals with an overload of information. I am like a magpie drawn to intricate detail, collecting and manipulating pieces of visual culture. I combine collage, oil paint, acrylics, emulsion, ink, spray paint, conte crayon, chalk, felt tips, pencil and anything else I can find. Found photographs and fragments of text can be included because of a personal sense of meaning, or purely as passages of visual ‘noise.’
I wanted this work to echo the feel of a beach in winter. I employed a muted, faded colour palette.
Scrim was glued to the surface and resembles fishing nets.
The piece is an irregular shape, this also recalls pieces of flotsam and jetsam worn with time and tides.
My work does not start with a finished image in mind. Rather it carries a sense of practical progression; each new area suggests the context and space for the next aspect of the piece. I often work on several at a time. The work is in a constant state of evolution and reinvention. Layers are added and scraped back. Each finished piece displays evidence of this process of revision, editing and adding new elements until it feels right to stop. Sometimes pieces become overworked. I often recycle them by cutting them up and using parts that ‘work’ to create new images.
Click on the screenshot. Enjoy!
Making things, making art, is a dance of discovery. A mark is made on the empty canvas. A movement arises, freely improvised. The body moves. Tools are picked up. Gestures in color, form and texture unfold. Mind is poised, empty, innocent, and endlessly wondering.
Welcome to wonderingmind studio!