“Moments in Light and Shadow” Art Show at Common Wealth:
Study in Tone and Emotion
|Clockwise from upper left: Aaron Bird Bear with his portrait; A
painting of Nyra Jordan; Jerryry Jordan with his portrait; A portrai of
Mai Xiong; A painting of Nyra Jordan after boxing
on the weekends, I would work eight hours per day on them. It was like a full-time job on the weekends. The family is all happy because I
As one walked around the gallery, it shows how Jordan has challenged himself. While he is known for his portraits, Jordan had painted a
number of indoor scenes and still lifes. He used family trips to museums in Milwaukee and Chicago to take photos of scenes, which are
reflected in some of his paintings. And there is also a still life of a carton of Chinese food with some grains of rice that had fallen out of
the container. But it is the portraits that really seem to spring to life from the walls of the gallery.
“All of the portraits are kind of done in the style of the late 19th century portrait painters like John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase
and Anders Zorn,” Jordan said. “They perfected this style of portrait painting. It’s not realism, a classical realism, but it also isn’t
impressionism. It’s in between the two.”
Most of the portraits that Jordan has traditionally painted have been of African Americans. To branch out and broaden his artistic
horizons, Jordan painted officemates Mai Xiong and Aaron Bird Bear.
“I wanted non-family members,” Jordan said. “I wanted to have different skin colors and textures. It isn’t really difficult to do skin tones
once you learn how to do them basically. It’s just a matter of adding a little more red here or a little more green or white there. I have a
better understanding of skin, how to get the skin tones more life like. I have a better understanding of color.”
Jordan uses tubes of the basic colors and then blends them to get the kinds of tones that he is envisioning.
“I use a color wheel,” Jordan said. “You have to study the color wheel and get that down. Most of the time, I know what I’m looking for
and I know the color when I see it. That’s what takes so much time with portraits, getting the skin color right again. That is why it is best
to try to do it in one setting. Like my wife Nyra in the red coat, I did the face and the hands at the same time because it would be difficult to
get that color back again. Then I painted the red coat. A lot of artists will place the color into a tube. I may start doing that actually. It
would save a lot of time.”
While each painting is a finished product of its own, evincing emotions and moods from the viewer through the use of color and brush
strokes, they are actually a study of different stages of refinement.
“This painting is meant to be a more polished piece,” Jordan said pointing to a painting of his wife. “It’s still a little loose, but it’s meant to
be a bit more polished and finished. Some of the other ones, such as this one with the red coat is more finished whereas Nyra in Black is
less finished and you can see more of the brush strokes. The small vignettes are meant to be quick sketches. They are done in 1-2 hours.”
Jordan uses photographs of his subjects to create his paintings, unlike olden times when the subject would have to sit for prolonged
periods of time. Yet even the photography sessions can be tedious.
“With the boxer, I got my wife to pose,” Jordan said. “She had finished a workout. All the while she was holding the punching bag, she
was saying, ‘Hurry up, hurry up, take the pictures.’ I got her to stand there for five minutes as she was taking pictures of her from different
angles. I use the same lighting as the photos. I have a number of different lights in my studio.”
Jordan looked pleased as he watched people in the gallery walking around studying his work. Jordan himself was a portrait of patience,
persistence and talent.
Jerry Jordan can be reached by calling his cell phone, 608-345-6049 or e-mailing him at email@example.com.
By Jonathan Gramling
Jerry Jordan is a familiar face on the UW-Madison campus.
Formerly a counselor with the UW PEOPLE Program, Jordan is
now a recruiter for the UW School of Education. Yet it was not his
face that adorned the walls of Common Wealth Development’s art
gallery on S. Baldwin Street the week of August 1-7. It was the
faces of his family members and people with whom he works.
Jordan is an area artist whose works have graced the covers of
UMOJA magazine and The Capital City Hues. And while his day job
and helping to raise his children with his wife Nyra takes up most
of his time, Jordan has also continued to paint portraits in his
And while Jordan had a couple of art shows while he was a
student, he never had a public, professional show of his work and
Jordan was itching to branch off into something new.
“I made up my mind in February that I was going to do a show,”
Jordan said. “Ever since then, I’ve been really working at it. All of
these are new, done this year. I’ve been working very hard, many
late nights. My average bedtime was 1:30 a.m. this year. And then