Touch of Grey

Image Makers Art’s Gallery of the Stars showcases artwork by Jerry Garcia.

By: Matt Smith

Jerry Garcia’s "Garcia/Grisman"

   Late in his life, Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia battled health problems and recoiled from the sometimes-scary devotion of the band’s fans. Garcia, who attended the San Francisco Art Institute before finding musical success, found solace in art, says Jacqueline Block.
   "It was therapy for him," says Ms. Block, manager of Image Makers Art’s Gallery of the Stars in New Hope, Pa., which is exhibiting his work through May 23. "Actually, these pieces we have he did when he came out of his diabetic coma (in 1986)… His friend Nora Sage said to him, ‘Look, you’ve got to do something. You’ve got to get going. You’ve got to start your art.’"
   Image Makers acquired a large collection of Garcia’s watercolors, airbrushed pieces, sketches and etchings before he succumbed to a heart attack at age 53 on Aug. 9, 1995. The limited-edition prints (usually between 100 and 500 prints) come from plates that were destroyed during his life.

"Irish Tree"

   As Garcia’s skill as a painter developed, he tackled realism, surrealism and geometric abstraction. His subject matter ranges from cartoonish dinosaurs to striking nature scenes.
   "It’s colorful," says Ms. Block, who chatted as a Jerry Garcia-David Grisman CD played in the background. "It’s prolific. It’s spiritual. There’s a lot of passion in it."
   Gallery of the Stars has been exhibiting the works since opening on West Mechanic Street in 1998, but this is the first time they have been spotlighted, according to Ms. Block.
   "Even though we have been selling him," she says, "I wanted to showcase him for the 10th anniversary of his death. Actually, it’s a celebration of his life."
   Image Makers also features the art of musicians such as Beatles legend John Lennon, crooner Tony Bennett and Robby Krieger (The Doors), to name a few, displaying the works in New Hope and at art expositions around the country.
   "Mostly they come in because they see the names Garcia or Lennon," says Ms. Block, describing the typical Images Makers customer. "They’re interested in music. Music is their passion. They want to see what Jerry and John and the others did. They buy the piece because of they connect it with the love of music… And then we get random people that just love the art."
   Considering the vintage of many of the above-named performers, those customers tend toward a similar age group.
   "Most of them are in their 50s," says Mr. Block, "but I would say (they range) between 17 and 70. You get the young people whose parents turned them onto it or who discovered it themselves, and then you get the middle-aged people who have the money now and always wanted to buy a piece of this art."
Jerry Garcia: A Visual Journey is on view at Image Makers Art’s Gallery of the Stars, 12 W. Mechanic St., New Hope, Pa., through May 23. Gallery hours: Thurs.-Mon. noon-6 p.m. For information, call (215) 862-4858. On the Web: