The Inspired Heart
An Artist's Journey of Transformation
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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Foreword by Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul
This is the extraordinary story of an artist's daring exploration into the source of his creativity. 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 10 years wandering, seeking, listening, and trusting God to take care of him. "It was a powerful, holy experience that left me shaken and empty, but exhilarated," says Jerry of the destruction of his art. Mindful that he was choosing a strange and dangerous way, he questioned his own sanity and the existence of any higher power. Ultimately, he came to the simple, yet radical understanding that every moment in life requires the artist's creative attention. And with that new perspective, he was able once again to create art without worshiping it as a false idol.
Says Wennstrom, "In the process of letting go, there was a slow build-up to that most importand leap. I experienced it as a leap into 'being,' rather than the 'doing' of creating art, or the expression of being through my art. I let go of everything I thought was most 'me.' I felt like I was making a leap into a new relationship with the most direct and creative expression I could give myself to."
The Inspired Heart tells of a life lived by the singular requirement of Grace—to remain fearlessly attuned to the heart. It is an upside-down perspective, where what is generally most sought after is relinquished, and conscious entry into uninhabitable terrain reveals a remarkable truth. Wennstrom sees no event as out of place in his world, where anything, from street-corner violence to the gentleness of a stranger, can become a blessing.
The book includes 16 color pages of Wennstrom's beautiful and intriguing art. Wennstrom's art and his life story are also the subject of an award-winning film released on video, In the Hands of Alchemy, and his art is featured in the film Mythic Journeys.
Watch the poet David Whyte discusses Jerry Wennstrom's artistic journey in these videos.
Watch a lecture and slideshow by Jerry Wennstrom at Pacifica Graduate Institute below.
Praise for The Inspired Heart
Reading The Inspired Heart has been a real gift in which I feel the glow and power of Jerry's spirit.
—Marion Woodman, author of Dancing in the Flames
The Inspired Heart by Jerry Wennstrom is a remarkable and inspiring account of one man's journey into complete surrender. We have all read and talked about trusting in existence, and here is a man who stays with that commitment to the very edge and beyond, exploring every angle and corner of what trust can really mean. The fruit of this exploration is transmitted through Jerry's extraordinary art. This is a must read book for every translucent reader.
—Arjuna Ardagh, author of The Translucent Revolution
A heart shaped stone. A memory wafted in the scent of a summer breeze. A tune you hum without thinking. These are just some of the mystical ways Jerry's stories carry themselves. Jerry speaks from the place where the magical and holy intersect with the practical and everyday. The name of that intersection? It is"‘transformation."
—Mary Anne Radmacher, author of Live Boldly
Few of us have emptied our cup as completely as Jerry Wennstrom did when he destroyed his art in 1979, and therefore few have experienced as deep a reawakening to the subtle stirrings of the divine in everyday life. It's hard for me to convey how deeply I respect what Jerry shares with us in his book, The Inspired Heart, in his art, and above all in his person. Here is a completely genuine voice of creative spirit.
—Chris Bache, author of Dark Night, Early Dawn
I'm sure that many people will find comfort and inspiration in this book. Jerry is able to describe a spiritual journey outside of any ancient tradition or modern system, and I trust that originality. He avoids the many hollow words that sometimes enter contemporary spiritual thought and embodies the idea that you can be fully spiritual and fully secular at the same time. Jerry's experience shows that simply by being receptive to deep intuition and living intelligently from the heart, you can achieve a degree of holiness.
—From the foreword by Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul
Jerry Wennstrom is an artist who works both with materials and with relationships. This book is truly a story of "pilgrim's progress" told by a man who risked everything to find his true path and the inevitable spiritual gifts that come from helping each other along the way.
—Christina Baldwin, author of The Seven Whispers: Listening to the Voice of Spirit
In a society where everything is never enough, Jerry Wennstrom's book is an unconditional gift. This amazing story is chronicled with great humor and clarity. Crazy characters crop up all around him, but he draws each one into the still point which he so effortlessly inhabits. Calm and generous to the core, he survives in ways that can only be called miraculous, as the inspired art form of his life comes full circle. Everything matters. Everything magically fits into place.
—Laura Chester, author of Holy Personal: Looking for Small Private Places of Worship
Jerry Wennstrom's life is his art, and his art is his life, a seamless flow from inner to outer expression of light and dark, multileveled, joyously humored and lit with authentic experience of being in service to its Source. This artist has learned to listen to the language of a larger life as it wishes to be lived through him in all its joy, creativity, reverence—and as healing power for our time.
—Claire Dunne, author of Carl Jung: Wounded Healer of the Soul
In giving up everything—possessions, attachments, even speech and food—Jerry Wennstrom found his true self, and something more: the wellspring of human nature. The Inspired Heart chronicles his journey and the Holy Fools he met along the way. His art reflects that deep level of knowing that links each of us to the part of our nature which is eternal.
—Deloris Tarzan Ament, author of Iridescent Light: The Emergence of Northwest Art and Dark Visions: The Art of Annihilation
If you have the patience or the tolerance to listen to what Jerry has shared with us you will know how our wisest healers deal with the people in our world. Each person needs someone to "listen" to them. Jerry has brought us to the inside of listening. Thank you Jerry for your compassion and your true and generous gift of listening and allowing us to eavesdrop. Dahadubul, you have honored each of us with the words shared in this book. These words express your beautiful gift of honoring life in all of its forms.
—Vi Hilbert, Salish Elder, author of Haboo: Native American Stories from Puget Sound
We have in Jerry Wennstrom's work something that is very needed for our current times: a life placed in service of the soul's depth. This surrender to a deeper calling and the conviction necessary to craft a life that supports such a response is medicine for our troubled times. If we could all dip into the wellpsring of creative faith that Jerry has manifested then our world would be a better place. Jerry is an artist that shows us how to have the courage to bring healing to our world. This is one of the highest callings any of can have and we owe a debt to Jerry for helping to guide us on our collective journey.
—David La Chapelle, author of Navigating the Tides of Change
This artist's thoughts and experiences of living on the edge will expand and challenge your vision of life's possibilities. The book is full of daring incidents and fascinating characters, and exemplifies why the spiritual life can be stranger than fiction. Travel along in the 'now' as Wennstrom surfs the waves of life and carries the most colorful people with him.
—Joe Kulin, Publisher, Parabola Magazine
A needed true to life mythic story—Jerry Wennstrom's narrative is piercing and irresistible. His courageous quest for spirit and meaning in a world blinded by consumerism is a modern fairytale to find the source of art and inspiration. His stories invite the fearless heart to open.
—Laura Simms, storyteller and author of Our Secret Territory
Jerry Wennstrom is a rare and courageous individual, with an unusual talent for deeply inspiring others and expanding the sense of what is possible. A master storyteller and a brilliant visionary artist, Jerry weaves a powerful alchemical magic into his mythic creations. Jerry's faith and openness to the cyclical rhythm of life has brought him a bounty of spiritual wealth and ancient wisdom that he is eager to share. The Inspired Heart is a wise and precious document, revealing the timeless secrets of simplicity and holy revelation. Your perspective of the world and yourself will be forever changed after you read this beautifully crafted, shamanically transformative book.
—David Jay Brown, Mavericks of the Mind and Conversations on the Edge of the Apocalypse
Without hesitation, I can say that The Inspired Heart describes in content, style and intention, everything that is near and dear to my heart. It is, indeed, beautifully written, magically intimate and readily available to all who might pick it up. If we could somehow put it into a form that would dissolve, I think it should be put into public drinking water! An odorless and colorless substance that could protect the soul from calcification and nurture it into deep-rootedness in all aspects of life.
The very attitudes and courage required of you in making this extraordinary pilgrimage are the same required...nay, demanded...by any soul worker - counselor, analyst, therapist, or otherwise. How few really understand this when wanting to be present for another. Being truly present for another requires a ferocious trust: It requires the ability of the ego to completely step aside and to remain steadfast and committed to the Unknown. It is this trust that can heal, that can foster a capacity to love when one can find nothing to love.
What is describe in this book is the very thing that is needed at this time in the world, for this understanding is in danger of being forgotten, or hidden. Stories such as these are absolutely critical, both as inspiration and as documentation.
—Cedrus Monte, PhD, author, The Moonlit Path: Reflections on the Dark Feminine
Jerry Wennstrom is an artist who has found the courage to base his life on following the truth of his creative spirit. Through surviving the natural cycle of death and rebirth of his creative vision Jerry has been initiated into a place of mystery that is reflected in his artwork—a place where he touches the vast complexities of the collective unconscious. His stories of the synchronicities that surround his work are remarkable. I have been honored to have him speak to many of my classes at Pacifica Graduate Institute over the last three years. His lectures are always received with a deep appreciation for how he so naturally embodies much of the theory that we discuss in the realm of depth psychology. The students always find Jerry’s talks refreshing in that they are centered in the lived experience first and the analysis of that second—if at all. He is humble and humorous, brilliant and inspiring all at once!
—Ana Mozol, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, Adjunct Faculty; Adler School of professional Psychology, Core Faculty
I found this book called The Inspired Heart sitting around the house and I picked it up and, as I like to do, looked through the pictures. Well, they were certainly spectacularly engrossing in their originality, color, cleverness and beauty. But, then it happened: I saw how painlessly short each story was, so I risked reading one. I haven't returned the book since then. It is wonderful. I started with the chapter "Healing the Bloodline" and it so rang true in my—in my own experience—it really touched me. Jerry shares his life with such simplicity and candor. I don't know quite what I'm trying to say, but I felt that if everyone on Planet Earth could see themselves with that same lack of self-consciousness and with that same consciousness of the self, we would all feel closer, and have more understanding and compassion, as human beings. Well, I'm savoring this book and whomever was next on the list to read it will just have to wait (I can't be compassionate ALL the time)!!!
—Andrea Kulin, early childhood teacher and storyteller