JEROME: Successful Artist Finds Life Lessons in His Art
During my senior year, majoring in Studio Art at Georgia State University (1982), I received a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. Some artists, writers and other creative types have historically been associated with mental health issues. I continued to paint as I had all my life, studying privately for many years after receiving a Bachelor of Visual Arts degree, with Joseph Perrin, a world renowned artist and head emeritus of the School of Art and Design at GSU. Recovery from illness was elusive until a psychiatrist tried me on Risperdal in 1996.
I remember this year vividly because, I consider it as the year I regained my life. I am now many years into recovery, and deeply involved in the creation as well as the business side of art. Fortunate to have gained a diverse base of collectors, in 2004 the Carter Center in Atlanta invited me to give a solo art exhibit to an audience that included Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn. Mrs. Carter has since purchased two of my works to hang at the Carter Center in Atlanta and my art donations to the Center have brought as much as $13,000.00 for a single painting at auction.
Extremely grateful for success thus far, with increasing media attention, interviews, documentaries and panel discussions, I've grown enormously as artist and communicator through painting and speech. I've started a business creating and selling art, and have also written a yet to be published book with the foreword written by Rosalynn Carter titled: How to Get What You Want by Changing Your Mind, and subtitled: Finding Life Lessons in Art. It tells of how I overcame mental illness while pursuing my dreams to become the "Best Artist Ever" and how I used coping skills derived from problem solving the creation of original art to find greater meaning in my life.
Over the years I've been fortunate to have shown work in galleries such as Mason Murer Fine Art, Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech, City Gallery East, VSA Arts for All Gallery, Sabra Gallery, Chances Gallery and others. I am most grateful to have collected a Consumer of the Year award from a consortium of mental health organizations, Best of Show and Distinguished Merit awards from Georgia Artists with Disabilities, praise and adulation from my art students at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter, support for my art career from my part-time boss and coworkers at the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, attention from the mayor of Atlanta with two of my works selected for inclusion in the city of Atlanta's permanent art collection, national recognition from consumers of mental health services by receiving the "Howie the Harp" award at an Alternatives conference, and just recently, I've been selected as a resident artist of the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation for the gifted mentally ill and completed a solo art show in Gallery 100 of the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta.
My artwork is part of both documentaries "Shadow Voices" and "Building on Faith" by Mennonite Media, and I have been interviewed by several news organizations including CNN news, WXIA-TV and WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia.