Last night I was listening to a “This American Life” podcast called “It’s not the Product, It’s the Person”. The program began with the story of an 11 yr. old girl who sold candy to strangers. Many kids do this, but this girl understood that people weren’t buying candy because they wanted candy, but because she had convinced them to invest in her potential as an entrepreneur, and therefore, her future.
When I first met Jerry, I was impressed by his passion for the Project. He immediately recognized the beauty of an art subscription in that the patron is investing in the artist’s ideas and process. It’s not as much about the product as it is about enabling an artist to explore new ideas and develop their preferred topics and techniques, rather than conform to the expectations of a patron’s commission.
Our patrons are precious to us because we recognize the risk they take in supporting artists in this exchange, but here’s the thing; they never complain. It is a beautiful thing to witness an artist develop and explore new ideas over time. We have watched Jerry do this in his own work over the last couple years, and it has been a sight to behold.
All this to say, you should invest in Jerry. Watch what he does. It’s beautiful.
How much does music (esp. related to your day job) have an influence on what you create?
I listen to music constantly. Sometimes for inspiration, to provoke a mood or to drown the constant din of music playing inside my head. I have an internal radio that interacts with whatever I am doing or thinking and it is constantly playing, shifting and changing which makes it difficult to concentrate. I play and write music and constantly hear new rhythms, bass lines and melodies spring up from the world around me. Footsteps, rattling furnaces, partial conversations and birds are some of my favorite sources. I am always listening to the environment around me – always very affected by it.
Music has a huge impact on my art practice. I don’t listen to recorded music while I am creating visual art. It is all about letting go and being as free from distraction as possible with my thoughts and actions. I like to listen to the music from my internal radio broadcasts and feel the energy move through my body when I am -deep- in a creative cycle. I observe the manifestation process from a distance. It’s similar to the out of body experiences I had as a child between age six and ten when I was often sick and running high fevers.
I restore antique stringed instrument bows for my day job and get to work with lots of beautiful natural materials like mother of pearl, fossil ivory from mammoth tusks, precious metals and colored silk thread. I see myself as a bridge that connects musicians and their creative process through music and artistry which is very satisying.
Take us through your process a bit. How much of it is accidental vs. composed?
My process starts with photographic paper and darkroom chemistry for continuous tone photography. The big difference is that no camera is involved, so there is no negative as an image source. Instead of using a darkroom, these ‘chemigrams’ are created in the light and I actually expose the light sensitive paper to bright sunlight for several hours to help develop interesting colors and effects not unlike a photogram or lumigram. It’s really cool. Resists are used to help control and vary the speed of the chemical reactions. I use soft resists like honey, oils and syrups and hard resists like varnishes, glues and sealants. As the resists are broken down in the developer and fixer, different effects are rendered. I can control what the image will look like by manipulating the thickness of the resist, the time spent in the chemistry, and by the use of chemical accelerators and retarders used in traditional black and white darkroom technique. Each step, each ingredient has a direct effect on the result. It’s all trial and error in the beginning, but you start to get an idea of what’s possible after producing a hundred or so.
My pieces start with an idea for a concept which is sketched onto drawing paper. Then I choose the type of paper, chemicals, resists and additives depending on the color palette and effects I want to achieve. After the resists are applied and dried, I ‘bake’ the paper in the sunlight for a couple of hours which ‘fogs’ the paper. Then it goes into the chemical baths. Developer turns the exposed paper varying shades of black, while fixer turns the paper white and stops the developer – mixing them in various ratios result in a spectrum of colors. I like using hard resists as they result in a more extreme contrast and allow me to manipulate them into the shapes and effects I need in order to complete a piece. Soft resists are more flowy looking with dreamy contrast and more color. I vary the thickness and type of resists and use paintbrushes, tweezers, and my hands to manipulate them and also apply additives for various effect. It is controllable to an extent, but there is some unpredictability to it.
Chemigrams have an individual look and style that matches each artist’s arsenal of resists, chemicals, and technique. Temperature, humidity and amount/source of light have a big impact as well. One of my favorite aspects of this process is mixing developer and fixer together on the paper resulting in a silver dichroic effect that turns into purples, oranges, yellows, blues and reds depending on the type of photographic paper used. I found the best results come from papers manufactured in the 1920’s – 60’s which contained not only silver, but cadmium, bromides, gold chloride and other presently ‘banned’ ingredients to help coax warm or cold tones to the image. I am constantly checking Ebay and garage sales looking for expired darkroom paper.
You have twins, right? How do you do all that you do? What kind of legacy do you hope to leave behind for your girls?
Yes – I have twin 4 year old girls and here’s how I do all that I do (without daycare or nannies) : my wife is a writer who works from home and we make time for each other because we understand how vital it is to have individual art practices. Our family does lots together too, but private time to create, reflect, and just be is very important. Life is an adventure, a story you create every moment. The legacy I want to leave my daughters with is for them to feel confident and unafraid of doing new things, to have fun, be kind and flexible and not to worry what people think.
What are you working on now?
A new series exploring landscapes via chemistry! I’m on to something with this series.
Have you made any discoveries in your practice as a result of becoming a member of Project Dispatch and making work for subscriptions?
Yes! The subscriptions have given me purpose, trajectory and the freedom to expand my ‘outline’ as an artist and to move within/away from photography. I like the action of creating, readying and dispatching to my subscribers as well as the interesting relationship between creator and collector via the mail.
-Every artist- in Project Dispatch inspires me and helps me move into different directions. I am now working on alternative process photography, chemical painting on photo emulsion and video/audio installation. It’s awesome! Project Dispatch also helped enable me to launch my first solo gallery show, This January I was accepted into the 2 year Sparkplug initiative at DCAC for emerging artists. This spring I will have work published in a fine art book from another artist collective I am involved in. So, I am in a state of constant expansion/evolution in my artist career in large part because of Project Dispatch.
If you could pick three artists from the Project to subscribe to, who would they be?
Molly McCauley, Duncan Ford, and Evan Hume.
TO CHECK OUT MORE WORK BY JERRY, VISIT HIS WEBSITE.