the "love" locket around the neck of the inner figure sets the copper
cylinder slowly spinning, revealing the 4-faces of Eve. Each of the
faces light up as they come around to the front.
Cylinder slowly turning. The painted faces are situated behind a veil.
Primary sculpted face #1
Painted face #2
(the 3 painted faces are seen through a veil)
(Queen Bee) (Click images to enlarge)Carved Cedar & Hive Boxes (7' x 3')
outer box housing the Queen Bee setting off on her maiden flight is
made of several colorful old bee hive boxes that still smell of honey.
In the beginning...
Face of the Queen
The Queen's Stinger
(stabilizing device below)
The bees that died over the summer have been placed
in the two brass containers situated on the "wings" of the art piece.
(Click images to enlarge)Outer Face & Inner Face Emerging Completed May 2011 - (7' x 3')
Read Article - "NURSE LOG"
Inner Face Emerging
Middle Body (mossy interior of log)
click on images to enlargeClyde's Emerson 9' tall (closed & open)
Cedar, a 50s Emerson TV, metal, electronic components
The multiple images of a zoetrope,
installed inside of a 1950's Emerson TV, revolve around a still Buddha
figure in the center. Visually held in placed by a pair of strobe
lights, the images give the appearance of a single animated face,
changing from life to death to life again.
Replicated visual effect of the zoetrope(Video created by Carol wright)
Pulling the lever on the right activates the zoetrope & strobe within the TV
click on images to enlarge Detail (interior)
Turtle shell face of interior figure
(features enhanced with oil paint)
* Feminine Balance
Click on Images to Enlarge
Opening to Dark Feminine
Click on Images to Enlarge Dark Feminine (Interior)
Click on Images to Enlarge Outer figure (Anima 8ft)
found a large 4 X 8 foot cedar sign at the recycle center here on
Whidbey Island. Deeply carved in the face of the sign were the words,
"Animal Clinic." With the sign lying face down I drew three six-foot
figures, arranging them in the most efficient way to get the most use
out of the large slab of cedar. I had cut out 2 of the figures and was
cutting the third when the phone rang.
It was my first love from 30 years ago! She had discovered and read my book and saw the Parabola
documentary made about my art and life and decided to look me up after
all of these years. I was amazed that she called and we had a lovely
conversation. After I hung up the phone I finished cutting out the last
figure and turned it over. Situated perfectly, the full length of the
figure was the word "ANIMA." For anyone who doesn't know the meaning of
anima, it is a Jungian term. It represents a man's inner feminine --
something he often projects (particularly with first love) onto a woman.
I had just spoken on the phone with my first projected anima! I created
an entire art piece out of this small poetic event, incorporating the
ANIMA figure and another of the cedar figures I cut out that day.
About the Piece:
Sacred Marriage has 3 layers. The anima figure is on the first, outer
layer. It is 6 feet tall and opens like a door. This figure is that of a
woman with her eyes closed and her focus is inward. There is a carved
snake that faces upwards on the lower part of her body. On the back side
of this figure, carved deeply into the wood, is the word ANIMA. You can
see the large, carved word when the door/figure is swung open.
next layer of the piece is a 6-foot animus figure and it is set deep
inside the box. This figure has its eyes open and the snake on the lower
part of his body faces downward. The animus figure also has a smaller,
carved figure ("Third Body") set into a brass oval in the mid-section of
its body. The smaller figure has bones, sculls and other symbolic items
hanging from its neck.
The head of the larger figure
is hinged just below the neck and folds down to reveal the third layer
of the piece. This layer is a life size painting I call The Union of
Opposites. It represents the place where the Anima and Animus come
together to form The Sacred Marriage.
Click on Images to Enlarge
Inner figure (Animus)
Third Body (Detail)
Inner figure with head folded down revealing "Union of Opposites"
orange colored outer shell of The Sacred Wound is made from the hood of
a 1941 Case tractor. The circular hole and center seam of the hood were
cut with a torch to form the blackened edged double doors. There is a
full cedar figure standing behind the doors. When the outer doors are
closed the dimly lit face of the inner figure can be seen through the
circular hole that has been cut into the tractor hood.
the left hand of the figure is a glowing blue light. The glow shines
through the fingers of the hand covering the "wound." The doors and the
figure have been installed into the burned-out hollow of a fallen Cedar
tree. The tree bark has been left on the outer surface of the sides and
back of the piece. The topknot and long hair are made from unraveled
black and orange rope.
Click on images to enlarge
Head inner figure
Hand with blue light behind it
Base with serpent
Upper Face is a door
One of 2 Side Faces
on the upper section of the piece.
Thurning the glass chrystal in the hand
opens the upper face/door.
When the door is opened the inner face
comes out, looks around and returns back inside.
Steam exhaust comes out of the mouth
of the carved face
The skull plaque opens to light a burner that
heats the boiler to power the seam engine.
Walking Through Click on Images to Enlarge Walking Through (closed)
is 8 feet high and about 18 inches wide and deep. The entire piece is
set into an antique casket cart, which at one time folded open and was
used to display occupied caskets at funerals. The casket cart has 4
wheels on the bottom for wheeling the caskets around. Often friends send
things to Jerry in the mail or give him things to incorporate into in
his art pieces. Gordon Barnett, a friend and fellow artist living on
Vashon Island, gave the casket cart to him. Below the Casket cart are
two red feet made from old wooden shoetrees. The round brass switch just
above the coffin cart activates the feet so they go through a walking
motion. The large, dark elongated box in the center of the piece is an
old violin case called a “coffin case.” The decorative copper face and
hands were added by Jerry. The coffin case was a gift that arrived in
the mail one day from Michigan. Inside the case is a carved cedar figure
surrounded by moss. There are rope lights hidden behind the moss that
can only be seen when the lights are turned on. The figure has an
abalone mouth with a copper tongue. The tongue comes out of the mouth
when the main upper chamber is opened and says “Live.” Turning the “S”
shaped handle on the right/front of the piece opens this chamber. The
outer door of this chamber has the large face that is carved into the
cedar. The face has abalone eyes with a copper spiral in the mouth. When
the chamber door opens a carved cedar mask appears from behind the
door. Hidden just below the mask is a molded copper hand, which comes
up; waves and returns back down out of sight. Opposite the “S” shape
handle on the front of the piece is a prayer wheel with prayers inside.
There are also prayers stamped in to the copper on the outside. Spinning
the prayer wheel sets the prayers in motion.
(Click on Pictures for to Enlarge) The Piano by Jerry Wennstrom Video by Carol Wright
The Pianobegan as an old Kemblebaby
grand piano that was given to me by friend Judith Adams. I gutted the
piano and cut it down to create a smaller inside compartment. I then
flipped it on its side so the keyboard runs vertically.
entire piece stands 8 feet tall and is 24 inches wide and deep. There
is a 5-foot carved cedar figure inside. The face of the figure can be
seen through the round window cut in the door of the piece. The piano’s
original hammers have been dyed and painted and now adorn the top. There
are lights and many brass and copper adornments as well.
original pedal mechanism from the piano has been mounted at the bottom;
acting as one of two legs the piece stands on. The second leg (behind)
is one of the original piano legs.
one of the two foot pedals turns the figure’s head. On the back of the
head is a small, rounded double door. Behind the door is a skull, carved
into the inside wood of the head.
The second foot pedal activates the hands. When the pedal is pressed the hands open slowly (like a book.) Stamped into the copper plates, mounted on the palms of the hands is a poem:
hammered and gutted the piano stands mute paradox nailed shut dead weight waiting widows walk and pray without a peep Can’t dance? Buzz God!
the sculpture offers a way to Buzz God! Four of the ivory piano keys
have brass plates with words stamped into them. The first key says, “Off
Key” the second, “Buzz God,” the third, “Sound of Silence,” and the
fourth, “One Hand Clapping.” Pushing the “Buzz God” key activates a loud
Piano Keyboard with Option to "Buzz God"
Face of Inner FigureTop with Hammers Hammers Detail
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
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.
The Headstone's final resting place (and ours too) at the Langley Cemetery
Reverse side of headstone
In the Beginning...
I carved the headstone in 16th/17th century New England style.
Things just seemed to fall into place for the creation of the stone.
Death, as a potentially liberating experience (metaphoric and literal)
has been a theme in my art and life for many years. It is the essential
mythos described in my book and Parabola/Sentient Publications documentary film made about my art and life.
My wife Marilyn Strong trained with Jerrigrace Lyons of Final Passages and is currently doing home and family funerals through Visser Funeral Home. Marilyn is also president of the Langley Woodmen Cemetery Board here on Whidbey Island. She worked with the Board and Langley City Council to establish a green burial
section of the cemetery recently. There are very few green burial sites
in Washington State or in the country, generally. Green Burial is
however, an emerging national trend so hopefully we will have a better
option than polluting the earth and ground water with enormous amounts
of toxins that are used in our current burial process. We recently
purchased one of the new green burial plots at the cemetery so I decided
to carve a headstone for the two of us.
I had it in mind to
create my own headstone for many years. I was originally inspired by an
older Eastern European man I knew in my teens. He was an artist and made
his own beautiful headstone out of free-form cement, embedded with
glass and ceramic fragments. It wasn’t until years later that I was
driving by a large cemetery in the New York area, where I grew up, that I
saw his headstone from a distance and discovered the man had died.
carved ours out of stone, which was an enormously difficult task, not
actually knowing what I was doing when I began. The base for the stone
is made of formed concrete and includes a special piece of embedded
marble. The marble was found on the beach of a sacred site on the isle
of Iona, Scotland Marilyn, being a fan of C.G Jung
and loving the fact that he carved words and images into stone, took up
the hammer and chisel at one point and helped create the very feminine spiral on the back of our stone. The stone was completed on Easter day -- a fitting end-date.
With the help of my friend Van, I installed the headstone on site April 7th.
is something both mysterious and liberating about giving one’s self, in
an embodied way, to facing one’s own ultimate demise – even if only as a
Friend and poet Judith Adams
happened to be walking with her dogs in the cemetery one day when I was
there measuring the ground for placement of the stone and she sent me 2
wonderful poems she wrote that were inspired by the encounter:
Jerry’s Gravestone We keep the dead separate.How can it be otherwise, for they hob -nob with God in person, under slabs of mossed stone,they have their supine conversations.You kneel on the spring grass to assess your compact property,your death cot between strangers,a tape measure dangling off center,your face like a boy with a great scheme;and like a boy, not afraid of the big bad wolf, at ease with the exciting pulse of the unknowable, say,of Voldemort or Aslan.Standing there watching is a novelty.We are used to planning the future.Designing a house or flowerbeds is a sensuous occupation,an understandable manifestation.But your own headstone!The carving, the quote, shocking!The illusive inevitability deliciously chilling and the final province along withthe only, true alumna sublime.People will say to one another,“there’s no date of the departed.”They will think,“This man likes to skirt the premises,to rattle the door a bit, to live with the tremor, the paramount visitation of the dreaded terminus.Only when skeletons dance,is the party is in full swing! *Grave Stone You have not finished your grave stone yet,I want to come across it one day on the undisturbed grass.A great surprise as I round the bend with the dogs.The carved skeleton, and chiseled words of a poem,the joint resting place, and the weather would be significant too.What if every bride and groom undertook the task to find words at the beginning that survive the hand grenades of marriage?What if the blushing bride and nervous groom had worked away for weeks on a death project;an artistic expression of the hyphenated life, a home for lichen, eternal silence, the use of language sparse and demands an undisguised journey, amid acquisitive romance. The bringing in of a dark stranger with chilling suggestions a robust embrace, a raw per-nuptial, that challenges constancy, a wonderfully morbid and charming commitment.And I am sure, the use of course sand paper is happily discussed!
Here is an inspiring video about hand carving headstones in early New England Style.