In the Hands of Alchemy

In the Hands of Alchemy

The Art and Life of Jerry Wennstrom

Jerry Wennstrom

Wennstrom was a star in the art world when he decided that the ultimate creative leap was to destroy his art, give away his possessions, and spend the next ten years wandering, seeking, and listening.


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Co-directed by Phil Lucas and Mark Sadan

In the late 1970s, Jerry Wennstrom was a rising star in the New York art world when he decided that the ultimate creative leap was to destroy his large body of art, give away all of his possessions, and spend the next ten years wandering, seeking, and listening.

“It was a powerful, holy experience that left me shaken and empty, but exhilarated,” says Jerry of the destruction of his art.

In this DVD, In the Hands of Alchemy, Jerry Wennstrom tells the extraordinary story of his daring exploration into the source of his creativity. He tells of a life lived by the singular requirement of Grace—to remain fearlessly attuned to the heart. Wennstrom and his art are handsomely portrayed in this film about his unique, adventurous search for spiritual authenticity.

The film includes footage of the Monks of Depung-Loseling Tibetan Monastery, excerpts from a 1979 film that show many of the works Wennstrom destroyed, and a recent presentation by Jerry before a live audience in his studio. It includes testimonies as well as narrations by the poet David Whyte, author Christina Baldwin, and artist Deborah Koff Chapin.

Click here to read an article by the author in the Light of Consciousness Magazine.


Praise for In the Hands of Alchemy


There is a tremendous kind of courage that Jerry showed in the midst of the chaos and the individual loneliness of the post-modern world, to go his own way. It was the ultimate artistic step.

—David Whyte, author of Crossing the Unknown Sea

When Jerry Wennstrom destroyed his art in 1979, he threw himself into the great unknown searching for a more authentic life. Walking the road of radical emptiness, the result was the emergence of a completely genuine voice, gentle and sensitive to the stirrings of the divine in everyday life, creative beyond reasonable bounds. Wedding compassion and creativity, In the Hands of Alchemy is a rare celebration of life and the joy of spiritual surrender.

—Chris Bache, author of Dark Night, Early Dawn

In the Hands of Alchemy is a delightful film, an alchemical mixture in itself of inspiration, spirituality, art and the story of a remarkable human being.

—David Spangler, author of Blessings

Seeing Jerry's film, I can't divorce it from the gentle strength of his personal presence accompanying it. His experience-based wisdom and knowing feeling are a penetrating complement to the life and work so powerfully portrayed on screen.

—Claire Dunne, author of C.G. Jung Wounded Healer of the Soul

I think there is a real difference in human beings who have let themselves be thrown to the ground by life. Jerry did that with an intentional act with his art. He is on the other side of that kind of psychic death and renewal. He really is a kind of phoenix who has risen from the ashes. He teaches us in a very gentle way you can survive an act like that, you can come through as a human being with great gentleness and beauty and that you can create your life in a highly profound and artistic fashion.

—Christina Baldwin, author of Storycatcher

Jerry Wennstrom's life gives witness to the blessed state of utter surrender into emptiness, through which life becomes an unexpected garden of creative abundance, simple profundity, ordinary sacredness and everyday love. It is a poignant metaphor for all of us mortals who fear loss of everything we define as ours—including our lives.

—Carolyn North, author of Ecstatic Relations

This is an extraordinary story of an extraordinary artist. Jerry's understanding of the freedom and gift of emptiness, the compassion that is inseparable from the void, is a lived and embodied realization. To see how this gifted artist chose to make his life an expression of his understanding of truth is a tremendous inspiration.

—Tsultrim Allione, author of Women of Wisdom

There are few stories this inspiring and brave about the artist as holy human being rather than maker of art. In a world addicted to concept and alienation, he is a man who was called to spirit and dared to answer the call. He does not need to seek creativity, but becomes it. Sharing this reality reminds us of another more primal way of being in the world, closer to the creativity of our ancestors who listened with the ears of animals and lived drenched in a sense of the sacred.

—Laura Simms, author of Our Secret Territory

Jerry Wennstrom is one of a kind - and his point is that any of us can be that. We can, like him, walk straight into the heart of mystery and emerge more ourselves than we could ever imagine. He tells his story of being called to destroy his art, of struggling to hear any message but that one, of surrendering his will and allowing the soft something that is beyond will to guide him. It's all a fabulous tale worth hearing again and again like a great myth, and it's a deep, simple instruction for how to find ourselves in the middle of a life that seems real, but is often missing the central character. Jerry's amazing recent artwork and his extraordinarily beautiful and talented wife, Marilyn, swirl around this story of a courageous soul, making it even more compelling. Best would be to know Jerry as I am privileged to do, second best is watching this film.

—Vicki Robin, coauthor, Your Money or Your Life

Additional information

Product Format



5.25 x 7.5 in


1 hr. 8 min.