Rhode Island (born 1939)
Jerry Wagner was born April 23, 1939 in South Providence, RI. He studied forestry at University of Rhode Island. In the early 1960’s, Wagner was stationed in the Army's Special Service Office in Heidelberg, Germany. He then married and had two children and lived briefly in Greenwich Village, where he performed at The Bitter End and other venues as an acoustic blues guitar player and singer. Wagner later divorced and moved to Woodstock, NY.
In 1971, Wagner studied at the Yeshiva in Morristown, NJ. “I soon realized that I didn't have what it took to be a Rabbi”. Thereafter, he sold his possessions and from 1972-1974 he “took a walk" from Maine to Connecticut. In ensuing years, he walked from Miami to the Mississippi Delta, and along the California coast from San Diego to Monterey; all the while meditating on Blues music and the Chumash.
In 1977, Wagner was stricken with Crohn’s Disease and began to keep detailed journals. “I slowed down and became concerned with balance”. He used his art to that end, never intending to show it.
For years, Wagner would daily go to a favorite spot where he meditated, wrote, drew, carved, and practiced t'ai chi chuan. Lately he goes out mornings to walk around town to sketch and jot notes. He lives simply with few possessions.
“Gradually (in the past decade) I let the wall down so I could communicate on a verbal level. I was deep in a primal energy struggle for survival. I was practicing patience and learning to endure. It is my struggle to find out what life is all about. I’m making some progress. My work allows me to integrate my thoughts and to be critical and deliberate. I take the scenes from earlier drawings and let them evolve. I move to new styles as the drawings seem to move me. I do things over and over. It takes years for me to finish things.”
Wagner’s body of work consists of hundreds of drawings, annotated collages, wood carvings, assemblage sculptures, and densely detailed notebooks created over the span of more than thirty years. His compositions are often abstract and enigmatic. In 2005, he began to collage elements of his notes and drawings on the backs of cereal boxes and envelopes. He says that the process of collage helps him to “inhabit” the drawings.
His notebooks contain sketches, poetry, weather records, reference to places, dates, ideas, and observations. In many, the pages are packed with diagrams, codes, cryptic acronyms, abbreviations, etymological analyses, and personal formulas pertaining to perception, nature, music & art, spirituality, mysticism and primal intellect. Examples of recurring acronyms are: CDRS - cybernetic digital retrieval systems; COTEM - concentration of the eternal mind; SOHM - silence of homing (instinct) memory.
Wagner’s work is in the collection of Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago. It has been exhibited in: You Better Be Listening: Text in Self-Taught Art, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago, 2011; INSITA 2010 (9th International Triennial of Self-taught Art), Slovak National Gallery, Bratislava, Slovakia, 2010; The Encrypted Eye: the Drawings of Jerry Wagner and Timothy Wehrle, Cavin Morris Gallery, New York, NY, 2006; Duration and Distance: Drawings and Carvings by Jerry Wagner, Island Arts, Newport, RI, 1997.
Integral to Wagner’s art is his philosophy.
“We’re corrupted by calendars. There is no longer the timelessness of the eternal mind.”
“A sanctuary of the spirit is a hard thing to build. It takes everything that you are to put it together, every emotion, every darkness, every light, every failure and every success. Only a full commitment of body, spirit and mind can build it.”
“It’s a problem planet. It’s how it’s designed. Resolve your problems. You can’t hold on to anything.”
George Jacobs Self-Taught Art
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