‘Life in Light and Shadow’


Dauntae Green, Editor

Jerry Jordan is inspired by the unacknowledged artists of the Harlem Renaissance. He’s a painter who works in the contemporary realism style. Jordan is also a UW-W alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in art and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in art education. For most of his art he creates, he is inspired by the heavy influence of artists like John S. Sargent, William M. Chase and Joaquin Sorolla. The way his art is created through oil on canvas, while showing different perspectives of African Americans from outside of pain and struggles. Jordan came to visit the University Center for the reception of the Life in Light and Shadow in Roberta’s Art Gallery, which featured a Q/A about his art Feb. 7.

Jordan explained how he became inspired in his career as a painter when he was taking classes on art in the University of Whitewater. Students were assigned a project on researching artists, so he asked if he could do his on famous African American artists, but they didn’t have any materials available about them in the course. He had to do research for them in the library, realizing that they were largely underrepresented in art, and subsequently fell in love with the Harlem Renaissance. One of his favorite memories from his time at UW-Whitewater was painting a mural for the University Center. He spent many hours on the piece to make sure it was unique. 

The main meaning for each of his paintings he creates are about having the freedom to be who you want to be, and how life is full of many possibilities. This is shown through his paintings on the culture of African Americans. Many are of people he knows – family, friends and others who lead inspiring lives. 

“My paintings are a rejection of our societies’ collective illusion. They reject the accepted norms that it is right and only proper that we live our lives bowed in fear. rarely reaching our full potential or achieving our dreams. My paintings are a manifestation of ideas, meditations and impressions taken from the beauty of the everyday. Sculpted in light and shadow, they are a celebration of life and all its possibilities,” said artist Jerry Jordan. 

Jordan wanted to make sure that his art tells a story and has meaning to each one. There is a purpose behind everything he draws and some are just fun ones he puts down like for example a rubber ducky in one of his paintings.

“In each of the paintings I create there is always a story that is being told. I always tell people or artists when you go to galleries or look at art, look at every detail and let them understand the meaning of the art in their own way. Everyday in Madison during my lunch break, I always go look at the art gallery to look over every detail in the art pieces to help understand it better,” said Jordan.

His favorite painting art that he has created had to be the one he did of his daughter posing with a coffee cup in her left hand, a bird on her right hand, and a dog beside her. What can be unique about this painting is the hair styles, the coat clothing she is wearing, and the animals beside her. He thought it was a beautiful painting of her. He did say that in most of his paintings that have butterflies in them, it was to depict transformation, change, and innocence. Each painting depicts a different story of all kinds and means many things through each detail, especially through many possibilities, and what if African Americans have freedom in paintings.

Jordan’s advice to many artists who want to show their art through many ways by practicing, learning more about art in general, and practicing.

“How to be a great artist that I do is practice everyday. If I took a break I would listen to podcasts on artists, learn more about history on art or artists, and continue practicing in my free time. Just keep practicing whenever you can and it gets better,” said Jordan.

Jordan is a muralist and children’s book illustrator. There are some of his muralist works on display at the Madison College Goodman South Campus, at the American Family Insurance SPARK building, and at UW-Whitewater in the University Center. He is working on illustrating three children’s books which are, Marching for the Vote: the Story of Ida B Wells and the Women’s March of 2013” by Dinah Johnson; “Unstoppable John,” a biography of Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis by Madison-based author Pat Zietlow Miller; and “Johnny Tunes and the Ganndy Dancers” by Pamela M. Tuck and Joel Tuck. Look for more upcoming events by Roberta’s Art