Holding onto his passion – Jerry Barry exhibits art at 75

By Mishael Henry

Artist Jerry Barry

Renowned Guyanese artist Jerry Barry has successfully maintained a passion that began in the late 1940s, and has lasted for 75 years as he continues to create impactful works that resonate in today’s art world. While he has been polishing the skills of his artistry since the age of five, Barry recently revealed the enduring journey of his artistic passion at his recent ‘Scenes of Long Ago’ art exhibition, on Friday at Castellani House, where he shared how it has shaped his life and career.
According to Barry, at age 12, he would constantly draw anything that came to his mind, and he had thought of himself as a professional artist. However, in one pivotal day in his life, it occurred to him that he was way below his own expectations. He said he passed along Regent Street in Georgetown and saw a painting that blew his mind, and it later caused him to have a deepened desire for art.

Renowned Guyanese artist Jerry Barry’s work on display at Castellani House, Georgetown

“I was about 12, attending high school, and me and my mother were window shopping down Regent Street. And so I came down the street, and the lights were on and I saw two paintings. To me they were pictures, and I stopped,” Barry reflected.
He further recalled that the instant he saw the image, it ignited in him a spark that he describes as a magical experience.
“That was magic to me! I had never seen a painting; moreover, I had never saw a painting with colour. That was a shock to me, and it stayed with me forever. Then was when I realized I wanted to be an artist. That moment gripped me from day one, and stayed with me almost forever, until now,” he explained.
Amidst the high inclination to his academic pursuits, Barry revealed, after that profound day, he was continuously inundated by the thought of creating high-quality paintings similar to the one he had seen.
He added that geometry was his favourite subject in school, and he learned a unique technique which he sought to implement in his drawings in a bid to enhance their realism.
“Geometry was my favourite subject in school, and from geometry, I learned about the perspective for drawing. So, my drawings were no longer twisted up, and I managed to get it straightened for the viewer,” Barry, now 75, said.
As Barry adopted various other techniques in his artistic pursuits, he would constantly put the graphite point of his pencil to work in attempts to better his craft.
“I managed to open the magic, the madness of drawing, and I would draw all day, all night, all day. I was like Michael Jordan with the paint brush,” Barry reminisced.
Meanwhile, he revealed, a crucial stage in his life was when he was recommended to attend the E.R. Burrowes School of Art. He was the youngest among the artists, and after years of bettering his craft, he managed to get someone to purchase his artwork.
“After years of drawing, I got the recommendation to go to the ‘working people’s art class’, run by Mr. Burrowes. I was the youngest guy there, a little kid, and so they called me “Smallie”, he laughingly said. He added that, at that school, he learnt how to do his first oil painting, and the lady who recommended him to the school fell in love with it, bought it, and placed it inside her house.
Barry said that was the first time someone had bought one of his oil paintings.
Later, in his artistic journey, he produced another stunning painting, and that was hung in front of the Government Technical Institute (GTI). Little did he know that, in time to come, it would be taken away by someone, and he would not see it again for years. He found out years later that one of the teachers of the school had seen it and taken it from there.
Having improved his artistic skills, Barry went on to become a teacher at the Burrowes School of Art; and in 1980, he received his Bachelor of Science (BSc.) in Art Education from Illinois State University in the USA.
Barry also held the position of Chief Art Instructor from 1985 to 1988. In 2003, he received his Master of Fine Arts (MFA)certification from the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford in the USA.
“I always had a desire to teach. I wanted to learn more…not only about art, but art academically. I was really following my passion for drawing, and so I would say that teaching shaped me as an artist as much as art shaped me as a teacher,” he explained.
During this art exhibition in question, Barry also relayed significant advice for not only young budding artists, but also young persons who have a passion to follow their heart’s desires.
According to Barry, youngsters who have long had a need to accomplish something must never forget their dreams, and could use his life as an example to not give up on their dreams.
“Look at me as an example. I followed my dream. I never diverted from my dream, and what we are witnessing here today is the result of that. So, whatever you have a passion for, whether it’s aviation or whatever it is, follow your dream and don’t divert,” he admonished.
Fifty-nine spectacular pieces of art were exhibited at Barry’s art show, which spanned Barry’s memories of his early days in Guyana and how various places in Guyana were built. On Friday, these art pieces were viewed by various associates of the American High Commission to Guyana, various young budding artists; and members of the Youth and Culture Ministry, who were unanimous in their praise of the works produced by Barry.