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Jerry Wennstrom – The Singular Requirement of Grace


Sacred Marriage



I am currently reading Jerry’s excellent book entitled The Inspired Heart (Sentient Publications).

In this book, he tells the extraordinary story of his daring exploration into the source of his creativity. In the late 1970’s, Jerry Wennstrom was a rising star in the New York art world when he realized that he was too attached to his identity as an artist, and set out to discover the rock-bottom truth of his life.

So he destroyed his large body of art, gave away all of his possessions and spent the next decade living in the moment —on basically nothing and surrendered to unconditional trust + the creative inspiration of his heart!

I should point out that the book includes 16 color pages of his very intricate and intriguing art, which is what caught my eye and inspired me to create this special “early bird” post.

I so look forward to spending quality/quiet time with the book each night as I  immerse myself into the interesting mini “life” stories that leap off the pages [maybe that’s why I was still up at 4AM this morning!].


“I ate when I had food and I fasted when I did not. I accepted whatever came into my life. It was that simple.” – Jerry W.

The Inspired Heart tells of a life lived by the singular requirement of Grace – to remain fearlessly attuned to the heart.

Until I finish this rare gem of a book, please enjoy a selection of what he labels his “early paintings, other paintings and angels and demons” which are included in this slide show presentation.


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Early Paintings

Exploring the Shadow

(in Jerry’s words)


Jerry 79'

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 naïvely, 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.



Other Paintings

Painting is no longer my medium of choice. It simply doesn’t hold the mystery for me the way creating the interactive boxes does for me now. What I have learned from years of painting in the studio has been absorbed into the larger whole and incorporated as a component in the creation of the boxes.

Only on rare occasion will I do a painting now. I might do one as a gift, or to cover a large blank wall, or as in a recent painting titled “The Holy Fool,” I did to go with something I wrote, which had the same title. At this point in my life, even when I do a painting I have trouble taking it seriously. For now, painting is something I can do but I have placed it on the back burner.


The Story Behind Angels and Demons

These panel paintings were the last of a series of paintings I had done before destroying my art and letting go of my identity as an artist in 1979. These images are all that remain of some final dialogue —remnants of longing fulfilled in the unexpected possibility of complete surrender. There were over 80 of these paintings, which I called “Angels and Demons.” The panels were human scale, 6 x 1-foot, and there was an image painted on both sides of the panel. Each panel hung on a single cord from a pyramid structure mounted on the ceiling. There were 10 panels (20 paintings) that hung from the pyramid. They were hung 5-and-5 on 2 of the 4 sides of the pyramid. When the entire piece was hung in this way, the images would spin slowly and appear to relate to each other.

The panels were often painted with light and dark figures—one on either side. The later panels eventually incorporated both together on the same side—an apparent and somewhat unconscious attempt to alchemically unite the opposites within. In the instant we unite the opposites we go beyond the language of our chosen form of expression. In my case, I had to leave behind the physicality of painting and, for what ever reason, the paintings themselves. Any language that we have efficiently put to use ultimately delivers us to some natural and useful end. It is at this end, with some final act of courage, that one’s chosen language is transmuted into a direct and sublime experience of the Source. These paintings represent the last words of the metaphoric conversation that led up to that end.

Artist, author Jerry Wennstrom was born in New York on January 13, 1950. He attended Rockland Community College and the State University of New Paltz. After producing a large body of work, at age 29 he set out to discover the rock-bottom truth of his life. For years he questioned the limits of his creative life as a studio painter.

After destroying all of his art and giving away everything he owned, Jerry began a life of unconditional trust, allowing life to provide all that was needed. He lived this way for 15 years.

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 has presented at the Birmingham Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, the EMP (Experience Music Project), Glen Arbor Art Association, the Old Firehouse Art Center, Other Side Arts, Pacifica Graduate Institute, UCS-NAROPA (Wisdom University), the Vancouver Public Library, Western New Mexico University, California Institute of the Arts and NYU. He has also done over 50 radio, TV and magazine interviews and art features.

Check out his official website Hands of Alchemy



2 responses

  1. Ernie

    “It takes great courage to experience great love.”

    Those words are so powerful as is the artwork and this NDA post.

    Thanks for sharing !


    February 10, 2011 at 5:37 am

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Jerry Wennstrom – The Singular Requirement of Grace « Non-Duality America -- Topsy.com

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