Put nature and man together and what do you get? For starters, a sky brilliantly colored by the sun with oranges and reds, mountains deep in blue and purple shadows with water reflecting the majestic beauty. Then, add the black silhouette of a power pole and electrical lines inserting horizontal and vertical lines.
Or maybe a teakettle atop a wood-burning stove. Heat-generated flames can be seen through the stove’s glass door as steam pours from the kettle’s spout, suggesting, perhaps, a cup of tea to be brewed. As the stove’s chimney rises, it transforms into the trunk of a paper-barked, leafless birch tree.
It is in that tug of man and nature, pushing and pulling, where Homer artist Jenna Gerrety finds her inspiration “and how it affects our cycles of regeneration,” she writes in the artist statement accompanying her paintings being shown being at Grace Ridge Brewing Company through the month of June, as well as at Sustainable Wares.
At the age of 5, Gerrety and her family relocated from Homer to Anchorage after her father found work with an airplane mechanic company and the family tired of the 250-plus mile commute. They returned often, however, deepening Gerrety’s love of the area and a yearning to return to the southern Kenai Peninsula for good.
After high school, she enrolled at the University of Alaska Anchorage with her mind set on becoming a virologist, a career that undoubtedly would have had her busy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It occurred to me what fun I would be having right now,” she said, laughing at the path her life might have taken had she not enrolled in a painting class.
Her first class wasn’t a positive experience. Disliking the instructor’s teaching style and approach to art didn’t sit well with Gerrety. Rather than be discouraged, however, Gerrety’s anger with how and what she was being taught had the opposite effect.
“I said, ‘I will do better than you,’” recalled Gerrety of the instructor and resulting decision to pursue painting.
She enrolled in a class with Alutiiq painter Alvin Eli Amason and found the inspiration she was looking for. Amason’s work has been in shows across the world, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Heart Museum, and his paintings can be seen by anyone passing through the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport or in the U.S. Federal Courthouse Building in Anchorage.
Gerrety enjoys drawing, but it is in painting where she expresses her love of color, playing with it, deciding which colors look good together and discovering new and better materials. For instance, one paint she uses often is “Easy Klein Blue,” a close approximation of “International Klein Blue” created by the French artist Yves Klein. With Parisian art paint supplier Edouard Adam, Klein used synthetic resin to produce an intense blue that, because Klein registered the method, could not be used by other artists. Another example is the lock artist Anish Kapoor had on Vantablack, the world’s blackest black material. British artist Stuart Semple has opened the door to those and other “banned” colors, by creating methods for producing close similarities.
In terms of subject, Gerrety said, “One of the things I have been fascinated about the Kenai Peninsula is that you can go pretty much anywhere into the woods, and you’ll find old cars, car parts, random stuff.”
That was the theme of her thesis, “Presence of Dystopia,” in which she took “things that are clearly signs that something is not well in society and highlighted them in a beautiful way. … How cool is the orange band of light seen through (forest fire) smoke? It’s very pretty, but the road is closed because you can’t drive through when there’s a fire,” said Gerrety. “It’s a duality, reminding people that there is some beauty in destruction, but it exists and is right in front of you.”
Depicting the duality in a delicate and beautiful way “can inspire more dialogue and less blaming or recriminations for things that aren’t really under the average person’s control, but need to be discussed or thought about,” Gerrety said. Leaving Anchorage and returning to Homer was something that didn’t take much discussion or thinking.
“I’ve always loved the drive coming into town, seeing the mountains open up in front of you,” said Gerrety, who, in 2019, settled on family property on Diamond Ridge, near her grandparents. “You just see the sunrises and sunsets, and it’s the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen.”
She is currently working at the Spotted Fox Tattoo Company, tracing stencils. When an opportunity opened up to exhibit her art at Grace Ridge, Gerrety jumped at the chance. Her paintings, as well as stickers, magnets and origami she’s created are also available at Sustainable Wares.
Where does she see her art going?
“Into people’s homes,” she is quick to reply with a laugh. “I would love to make a living painting, but if not, maybe I’ll go back to school and become a virologist.”
One thing is certain, however. “I’m not leaving Homer,” Gerrety said.
On Instagram, Gerrety can be contacted @djamor.art.