By Sean Edward hall
This afternoon I spent a lovely time talking with Jerry Lee Ingram on the patio of his parents’ home, drinking iced coffees, viewing his mother’s gorgeous flowers, catching up and hearing about his new exhibit at the David Strawn Art Gallery. His exhibit runs October 2 through 25 and is entitled, “How I See It.” A local boy, who now resides in Italy, Jerry Lee is a freelance fashion photographer. Currently, his images of Susan Nevelson are part of an exhibit called, “Women In The Spotlight/Donne Protaganiste,” in which Ms. Nevelson is featured alongside other historic female fashion icons. The exhibit is in the Gallery of Costume at the Pitti Palace in Florence, Italy, and runs until November 2016; the exhibit has garnered more than 800,000 visitors each year since it opened in November 2013.
“How I See It,” is a return to the Strawn for Ingram. In 2010, he collaborated with Andrea Collesano on “Men, Beasts, Shackles, and Myths.” In response to what it is like to be home, he replied, “Always good to be home.” He travels home several times a year and always marvels at the lush gardens his mother grows and appreciates the greenness of the landscapes. I asked him if growing up in Jacksonville (the education and exposure that he received while here) was good good for his process and his path, or if it slowed that process down. He quickly said that growing up here was definitely a character builder. It really drove him to see more and learn more. Besides the support and encouragement from his parents, he was quick to credit Leanne Holloway, who, “ … understood, nurtured, and tweaked my interest and talents.” He also noted the mentor-ship that Larry Calhoun had given him during his time at MacMurray College. “[Calhoun] gave me the freedom to be creative … well, not freedom without boundaries, but he nurtured my creativity in such a productive way.” I questioned about our current crisis in arts education in the U.S., asking if he were to grow up in this generation, would he have found the same path or been exposed to the same drive? He quickly said that he truly believes that if you are born of an artistic spirit, that is what drives you. It certainly helped to have the encouragement and exposure that he had growing up, but he doesn’t believe it is necessarily fundamental to who he became. Any person with a creative passion and ability is going to find an outlet and will be driven to find it, no matter the advantages or disadvantages they encounter.
This October, visitors to the Strawn are going to be treated to what are in essence two separate exhibits. In one half of the Gallery, the works will be centered on finding the surreal in the real. There will be perspectives and “scapes” (natural landscapes and landscapes made out of the surfaces of items) and there will also be portraits. These images will focus on taking a scene from reality and finding the surreal or exaggerated within the image. “The surrealism that I find while creating an image is a matter of perspective as well as the introduction of an element of contrast to the situation,” he said, “and I prefer to use as little digital manipulation as possible if any.” He told me that some of the portraits are sobering, dark and melancholy.
In the east wing of the Gallery, one will find samples of Ingram’s work in fashion photos and videos. These are images that he’s photographed for both commercial and personal projects and are mostly products his own art direction. The theme of this section will be a storyboard or “mood” board presentation, which will include more than a one hundred photos giving us just a glimpse of what he’s done in throughout his work in fashion. He laughed as he told me that originally this board had been meant to be a retrospective of his work, but he quickly decided that that would have to be a whole “other” show, as he needed a lot more time to put something like this together.
As we ended our time together, I asked Jerry Lee Ingram what advice he might give to someone who was thinking about going into this field of work. His reply: “Define what you love … find your passion … and don’t deny yourself this to do something ‘practical.’ Also, don’t turn down opportunities that seem unimportant because they may be something that could truly further your passion. I don’t give advice, though, only suggestions.”
“How I See It” by Jerry Lee Ingram will be on show at the David Strawn Art Gallery from October 3-25. The public is invited to opening receptions for each first Saturday of the exhibit from 6-8 p.m. in the gallery. Receptions will feature refreshments, live music and a gallery talk by the artist at 6:30 p.m.