Born in May of 1940, Jerry Schurr spent an idyllic first four years of his childhood growing up in the Fairmount Park section of West Philadelphia. His earliest memories are of a girl doing cartwheels on the grassy hill above the tiny picnic area that his mom had set up for their “lunch on the grass”. He was three years old. That grassy landscape has remained an inspiration all his life.While the Second World War raged on in Europe and the Pacific the neighborhood in West Philly remained peaceful and except for the occasional air-raid drill, the war remained distant. There were colorful Victory gardens to plant and lots of butterflies and other exotics to fascinate the mind of a growing boy. In late 1944 the family moved to a larger apartment in the mid-section of West Philadelphia. Jerry now had his own room and a new neighborhood to explore.The war ended and school began….Hamilton elementary…..Kindergarten and a wrenching separation from mom. First grade….walking to school with older kids and friends. Strange teachers….classroom boredom…..great walks home from school through the back alleys of West Philly…..neat trash and lots of cats.
Wow!!! He loved to watch his mom draw faces (in profile). It was so much fun to see his own hand move the crayon, pencil, chalk, brush or whatever to create a picture. His hands were wonderful. They could gently pluck a butterfly resting on a flower, or pet a stray kitten looking for its mom. Or best of all make a picture. He began to spend more time making pictures and they got more and more complicated. He drew pictures of his friends faces, pictures of cats, dogs, turtles birds, butterflies and almost anything else he could fit on a piece of paper, which also started to become bigger and bigger. But the thing that was the most fun to draw was the landscape. Hills, and streams with bridges going over them and trees and mountains with clouds hovering over them and the small V’s of birds wings.
Not too important, just something to get through till it was over and drawing would be the focus of the rest of the day. Then Central high-school and the “art” class with Fred Gill…..ah finally there was someone who both understood the importance of creating pictures and seemed not to care about the other subjects. Jerry got through the three years of secondary education and applied to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Finally, a place where he could express himself and learn the fine art that he so much enjoyed. Drawing: still life, castes, nudes, perspective, day in and day out. Experimenting with other media, acrylic, water-color, pen and ink. Three dimensional art: clay, wax, plaster of Paris,…armatures, wire, it was an endless array and he was soon overwhelmed……he needed a break. He ran away!
January 1960, on a TWA Super G Constellation the first leg of a flight to Honolulu, Hawaii…Pittsburg, Chicago, switch at O’Hare and another four prop plane,….Seattle, Portland back to Seattle and a raucous group of Dairy Maid revelers on their vacation to Hawaii board. Daybreak and below is the island of Oahu and massive cumulus clouds surrounding the descending plane. He’s there….Paradise….the plane door opens and the floral aroma of Oahu enters the plane. The next year and a half are the growth of a future artist. A volcano erupts, the moon hovers over a vast ocean, the sea colors everything, the air sweetens every day with floral scent and his first true physically romantic experience takes place.
By 1965, Jerry was ready to return to the serious pursuit of art. He re-applied to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and was accepted with a full tuition scholarship. The new works were influenced by the genre of the day……Abstract Expressionism, Op-Art, Pop-art basically New York was the dominant force. He tried to find a place in this new world……it didn’t work. Something was wrong…it wasn’t missing as much as it was not being addressed. It took another two years after he graduated the Academy in 1969.
By 1975 the landscape had completely overtaken Jerry’s artistic works and has occupied his creative output since then. From his early hard-edged images of the mid 1970s arose the magical realism of today’s works. The first real break-through came with Gunnison, (1978) a serigraph entered in the Philadelphia Print Club juried show of the same year. It won the prestigious, Eugene Feldman Memorial Prize (a purchase prize from the Philadelphia Museum of Art). The work was then noticed by a New York publisher (John Szoke Graphics). Who began the process of introducing Jerry’s work to the public at large, through gallery shows, poster publications, trade shows, mass media visibility (motion pictures, television show, etc.)and museum purchases.
Jerry’s most recent explorations of the landscape have him using the power of the digital universe. While in the past his images had been lost to him for periods of time during their creation he can now be involved in the entire creative process in real time. Using the layering system inherent in the Adobe Illustrator (vector) program, Jerry now is able to stay in touch with his inner creativity throughout the development of his landscapes. The modern monitor gives him the ability to work with light itself rather than the pigment of paint or ink. He can also determine the accurate expression of color through intimate adjustments of the printing process itself. His recent landscapes are filled with magical relationships that more closely mirror Jerry’s inner vision.
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