01 Jan Stephenson Showcase: Jerry Mannell’s “More Than Meets the Eye”
Creativity has been the unifying backbone of Jerry Mannell’s professional career. A Fine Arts and English Literature major in college, Jerry combined his love of visual and written stories into a career as a graphic designer, working for an ad agency for a few years. When the agency closed, he, like so many creative professionals, forged out on his own and became a free-lancer, which gave him more time to dedicate to his personal creative pursuits by painting regularly in his studio.
From there emerged a career-long exploration of the relationships between the concrete and the abstract, the mechanical and the organic. Jerry creates colorful compositions, full of well-defined shapes with hard edges. His vibrant color palette creates an almost tropical feel to his pieces. He admits that his style has been greatly influenced by time he spent in Santa Fe, an area of the country where vibrant, warm colors dominate every view.
Meaning and story abound in both his abstract and figural work. Themes and relationships emerge in the abstract pieces, while witty social commentary is evident in his more literal work.However, Jerry encourages his viewers to find their own meaning in his art: he encourages you to not be too influenced by his title for his abstract pieces, but to instead supply your own. He mentioned times throughout his career where viewers and customers saw something completely different in his work from his original conception. Once at an art fair, two different customers walked up and described a piece as ‘sushi,’ when that comparison had never before occurred to Jerry. Another time, a friend was eager to buy a piece, but wanted Jerry to change a black shape in the bottom of the canvas to be blue. The change shifted the original meaning Jerry had intended for the work, but the result was still aesthetically very satisfying. Jerry was happy to accommodate his friend and customer to help his work find a new home. Through interactions like these, he realized that when viewers are encouraged to put their own spin on a piece, by changing the title or customizing colors, they are far more likely to feel ownership and subsequently want to own the piece.
Jerry is well aware of the challenges facing Indiana artists: he laments the fact that friends and neighbors seem far more comfortable buying Colts tickets than paintings, even though the paintings will last far longer. He, like all of us at Nickel Plate, is searching for ways to encourage investment in original art. He thinks the key is to delight people with skillfully made colorful forms. He says that “art is about eye candy, just like music is ear candy.” He feels strongly that abstract pieces need to be beautiful, engaging and well-executed, so that even those of us without a background in art or who aren’t as comfortable deciphering visual language can be drawn in and find whimsy, inspiration and fun in the work. Then, we can find a deeper meaning that will prove that the piece is ‘more than meets the eye.’
Come explore Jerry’s “eye candy” during his showcase exhibit “More Than Meets the Eye” in the Stephenson House from January 7-29, 2022. Join us for Jerry’s reception event on Friday, January 21st from 6pm-9pm – it will be a great opportunity to escape Indiana’s dreary January weather and step into a tropical world all your own!