Feeling blue

Inspired by the color blue, local artist exhibits her latest body of work

Homer artist Jenna Gerrety’s latest body of work, “Omnipresence: A Blue Period” was inspired by her favorite blue paint, Easy Klein Blue, created by British artist Stuart Semple.

“Blue is omnipresent — from the sea to the sky to the logos of all the big tech companies, we are surrounded by blue,” Gerrety shared in her artist statement. “How strange that at one time, blue pigment was more rare and valuable than gold. How strange that oceans were once described as wine-dark and the skies were cloudy or clear. How strange that a color added so recently to our vernacular claims such an important place in our culture.”

While using Easy Klein Blue in a painting she was working on in 2020, Gerrety began thinking about color in general and this color blue in particular.

“That really took me down a rabbit hole in learning about color — wave lengths, how we perceive color, and its role in our language and culture,” she said.

Among other facts, Gerrety learned that 60 percent of the cones in the human eye are dedicated to perceiving red; whereas only 2 to 7 percent are dedicated to perceiving blue. She also learned that red was the first color to appear in languages and blue, one of the last.

“There’s a fascinating hierarchy of colors,” she said. “The earliest mention of blue as an individual color was six thousand years ago when Egyptians developed a method of using copper to create a blue pigment, Egyptian blue.”

Fascinated by the color blue and what she was learning, Gerrety also tied her exhibit into the blue period artistic individuals are known to go through, times of sadness or depression.

“When people are down, we say they have the blues,” she said. “Artists are drawn to blue because it is an intense color and has such strong ties to emotion. For the majority of human history, blue has been functionally useless for survival. Blue, despite its intrinsic, useless nature, is incredibly valuable. Today it can be found in everything from telescopes to medical equipment. I cannot imagine a day without the perception of blue, and whenever I am feeling low and useless, I tell myself that I am like blue. I may not be crucial to the survival of the human race, and I may not be vital to my surroundings, but I am valuable in my scarcity and ability to make others shine.”

Smitten with Easy Klein Blue as a paint color, Gerrety was not initially a fan of the artist Yves Klein who the color is named after, known for his blue monochromatic paintings.

“I didn’t see a point in having only a single color in a painting,” she said. “I thought it was boring.”

In 2019, that impression changed when she saw one of Klein’s paintings in person at a museum in California.

“Seeing the radiant and vibrant paintings for myself changed how I thought of art, like how art is less about technique and skill and more about communicating ideas,” she said. “Klein was good at communicating ideas with color.”

“Omnipresence: A Blue Period” includes 30 acrylic paintings. “Window Dressing” is Gerrety’s favorite in the series. Showing a couch in front of a window in a living room, with paintings on a wall and the background fading to the view from the window. A very personal painting, it represents Gerrety’s couch in her living room in front of her window with her paintings on the wall and fading to the view from her window.

“I really like tying the personal to the universal,” she said. “In this painting, it is my living room, my couch and my house, but the window view opens out to the night sky, to the moon that anyone can see.”

Painting in her art studio, which is her kitchen table, Gerrety is surrounded by large windows that provide light and inspiration. In this space, she also draws and creates collages, attending to her creativity daily.

“A lot of why we exist is to express ourselves, and the arts give people a voice no matter what their background is,” she said. “There are so many different ways to be creative and anyone can create art. Even if you don’t think that your art is as good as anyone else’s, it’s still what you made, and that’s valuable.”

With this exhibit, Gerrety tuned in to how she was feeling, relating the feeling to a color.

“When I think of a yellow period of my day, I think of lunch or breakfast, associating yellow with the act of bringing energy in, of consuming food or nutrients,” she said.

Her painting, “Cosmopolitan Organism” was painted from a photograph she took of a yellow lichen on a tree and is a vibrant blue background with an almost square cut-out painting of a section of birch bark that is lemon yellow.

“The yellow vibrates against the blue and shines in the light or when light and shadows are moving across it because of the different layers and sheens working in the yellow paints, changing and reflecting,” Gerrety said.

Gerrety has participated in numerous local exhibits and “Omnipresence: A Blue Period” is her second solo show. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2016 and has worked at Homer Council on the Arts since last December.

Gerrety said she has grown as an artist as a result of this body of work.

“Doing the research about the color blue for this exhibit got me a lot more interested in pigments and binders and how paints are made and what I can take from my environment to make my own paints, she said. “Working on these paintings improved my ability to work with acrylics and the types of acrylics I use. It’s made me a better artist in that my mastery of color is better, my ability to mix colors is better, and my ability to discern sheen and shade has improved. This is the first body of work that I’ve made as a professional artist that I truly think is cohesive and I’m really proud of that.”

Follow Gerrety on Instagram, @djamor.art. “Omnipresence: A Blue Period” is on display through June at Homer Council on the Arts and then shifts to the gallery at South Peninsula Hospital.

This story has been updated to reflect that the color Easy Klein Blue was created by British artist Stuart Semple.

“Venus,” a painting by Jenna Gerrety in her exhibit, “Omnipresence: A Blue Period,” is on display at Homer Council on the Arts through June. Photo by Christina Whiting

“Venus,” a painting by Jenna Gerrety in her exhibit, “Omnipresence: A Blue Period,” is on display at Homer Council on the Arts through June. Photo by Christina Whiting

Paintings by Jenna Gerrety as part of her exhibit, “Omnipresence, A Blue Period,” are on display at Homer Council on the Arts through June. Photo by Christina Whiting

Paintings by Jenna Gerrety as part of her exhibit, “Omnipresence, A Blue Period,” are on display at Homer Council on the Arts through June. Photo by Christina Whiting