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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. July's Theme: "Key to Heaven"
Volume 3 Issue 5 ISSN# 1708-3265
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About The Cover

Jerry Wenstrom

The piece is called Coniunctio. It is a 6-foot high angel carved out of a large slab of cedar. It has wings that slowly flap, a red glass heart that pulses and a bell that occasionally rings. There are hidden switches, which activate these features. The words, "Center Heart" are carved into the cedar just above the pulsing heart. The blue hand in the box below the heart holds a tiny glowing light. The colourful blue/green hair of the piece is unraveled ferryboat rope found on a Whidbey Island beach. The circular area at the center of the figure dispenses "Angel Cards". There is a large fly attached to the front of the piece. Hidden under the fly's movable wings is a brass key, with the words "Key to Heaven" stamped into the metal. There is a silhouetted copper figure standing on a brass ball, finishing off the bottom of the piece.

Coniunctio has a secret. There is a mischievous, optional component hidden behind the Chinese coins situated on the figure's elaborate headdress. When the 2 outermost coins are flipped sideways there are a pair of devilish red horns that appear and disappear with the movement of the wings. This feature balances out the angelic quality of the figure, giving meaning to the name, "Coniunctio" (an alchemical term meaning "the union of opposites".)

Jerry Wennstrom describes his creative process.

"My earlier body of work consisted mostly of paintings. In terms of my process in creating the large body of earlier work, I would begin by saying that if I could have painted my way to heaven I would have done it because I tried hard enough. What I see in retrospect is how, as a young artist, I was intuiting my way towards some illusive sense of Wholeness. By Wholeness I mean that quantum leap of consciousness which comes as an epiphany and brings together all of the disparate parts of our psyche in some meaningful way that we were not able to do through effort and will alone. We might also call this epiphany Inspiration or Grace. I believe it is the nature of reality to guide our lives in the direction of wholeness. Many of us are off and running in other directions - too busy to feel the gravitational pull of this possibility. The paintings I had done, prior to destroying the art, were grappling with the limits and tensions of duality and attempting to bring them together into some meaningful whole.

There was one particular group of paintings that were 1-foot by 6-foot panels, painted with life size images on both sides. There were 80 of these paintings and I was calling them "Angels and Demons" - painting one on each side of a panel. This was the last group of paintings I had done before letting it all go. Some of these paintings had 2 figures merging on a single side. They were hung in groups of 10 or more, each painting hung by a single cord. Hung in this way, they would slowly turn and appear to relate to each other as spirits in passing. I was also doing large paintings that explored and expressed aspects of duality - some explored birth and death, light and dark, male and female, good and evil, etc. In grappling with duality, I was wandering and intuiting my way towards a greater understanding of wholeness. In the beginning I was only semi-aware of the full impact this wandering would ultimately have on my life. I trusted some abstract allurement, a sense of beauty and joy, and did not know exactly where it would lead.

I would paint into my fears or perceived limitations. Through this creative process I would have liberating new insights and discover new levels of understanding. For example, I did paintings on insanity, suicide, the holocaust, sexuality and other areas of the personal and collective psyche I feared or did not understand. I also read all of the personal stories I could find by people who were in the concentration camps during World War II. This, too, was an attempt to find deeper meaning in perceived limitation and in the dualistic nature of the human psyche. What I found in the books I read, were amazingly beautiful stories coming out of the worst possible human conditions. This paradox alone hinted at some inspired possibility inherent in the dualistic nature of reality at its worst. I found great liberation in knowing the human experience was not limited or determined by external circumstances. Instead, it was determined by unconditional trust and the miraculous gift of a timely, perceptual shift. This perceptual shift would often save a person's life. It became clear to me that I needed to embrace this paradox within myself in order to access the inspired life I intuited was possible. After fasting for a month and getting very clear what courageous commitment was required of me, I destroyed my large body of art, gave everything I owned away and became the "nothing" that terrified and inspired me. Monk's Blessing Tower

Twenty years later I began the current body of interactive box sculptures that now fills my studio. It is only from the vantage point of retrospect, that I am able to understand and explain the allurement to creating this series of sculptures. The focus of my journey, both as an artist and as someone seeking greater understanding has been to face my fears. The sculptures I am creating now are spooky and very coffin-like, often evoking the response of fear for some people. The sculptures stand from 6 to 8 feet high and are wider at the top than at the bottom. They are carved from weathered cedar and include electric motors, mechanical devices and many found and altered objects. These added components are mostly made of brass and copper. Many of the sculptures have main upper chambers, which open like doors and have life sized carved figures or masks inside.

What has become clear to me after creating the interactive sculptures for the last ten years is that the coffin-like art pieces I am creating confront the viewer with something that might be perceived or interpreted as death-like images. If one can get past the initial fear of this perception and actually interact with the art pieces they are whimsical, playful and full of life. They all have secret compartments and some dispense talismans and other gifts. Several of the art pieces shock into wakefulness or serve as a divination process while others simply entertain. The sculptures express three dimensionally, the gifts that are available to us when we can find the courage to confront those aspects of our lives that might otherwise frighten us and cause us to turn away from the experience at hand.

The creative journey I have been on has found expression in unexpected ways. It has given me a sense of vision and purpose in my life. 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 the word "sacrifice," which means, "to make sacred." I want my life and work to be a gift to others - an expression of what we share collectively of the sacred in everyday life."


Jerry Wennstrom is an artist, the author of The Inspired Heart: An Artist's Journey of Transformation and the subject of two Parabola documentary films, In the Hands of Alchemy and the new Studio Dialogue. In 1979 at the height of a successful career Jerry Wennstrom destroyed his large body of paintings, gave everything he owned away and set out on a journey of trust and transformation.

"Few of us have emptied our cup as completely as Jerry Wennstrom did when he destroyed his art in 1979, and therefore few have experienced as deep a reawakening to the subtle stirrings of the divine in everyday life. It's hard for me to convey how deeply I respect what Jerry shares with us in his book "The Inspired Heart," in his art, and above all in his person. Here is a completely genuine voice of creative spirit." Chris Bache, author "Dark Night, Early Dawn" and former program director, The Institute of Noetic Sciences.

For more information about the life and art of Jerry Wennstrom visit his website.

Be sure to read Timeless Spirit Magazine's review of his book The Inspired Heart: An Artist's Journey of Transformation.

Cover Image

Copyright (c) 2003 Coniunctio - Jerry Wennstrom


Copyright (c) 1996 Monk's Blessing Tower - Jerry Wennstrom


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