"Jeri is a Memphis based painter who provides us with depictions of found objects that have endured the essence of time. To some her works may look somewhat similiar to the works of Mark Tobey, and perhaps even Cy Twombly. For the upcoming exhibition...Jeri continues to explore the delicate balance between immediacy and purpose, finding and connecting, building and scraping. She provides an engaging translation through her unique artistic processes, allowing the allure and seduction of the line to penetrate our hearts and minds. Not the humorous line of Paul Klee, nor the agitated line of Alberto Giacometti but rather a shy line lost perhaps and searching for its origins which is enhanced by the her choice of mixed media on paper."
--Mark Faraday, ArtSlant/Santa Fe
Jeri Ledbetter's Abstract Works Offer Emotional Immediacy
"I love the hunt," says Memphis artist Jeri Ledbetter about the thought process that goes into her boldly abstract canvases. "When I go anywhere, I look for the interesting part of where I am," she says. "And it's never the whole. There's always a corner or something hidden, especially places that most people don't go to look for beauty."
Those places, the hints of nature and the fleeting moment, make "Mano a Mano II" — her solo show at L Ross Gallery through Nov. 30 — an achingly intuitive experience, one that offers visual and emotional immediacy with a bite.The exhibit title refers to the contrastive gestures of fine and rough-hewn lines — the light and heavy hand, so to speak — that define the show's 19 paintings.
The Memphis College of Art alum says her training in representational art actually lends legitimacy to her nonfigurative work. "When I see an abstract painting, I can tell from my own experience those who have had traditional training and those who decided just to start splattering," she says. "It takes constant decision making and if you don't have traditional art to draw from, you don't have the confidence, and I don't think you have the freedom to let go of realistic images."
Though Ledbetter's visual language looks to the abstract expressionists of yesteryear, notably Franz Kline, Antoni Tàpies and Cy Twombly, she has found her own voice in the midst of such masters. The careful harmony of line, shape and space that is shodo, or Japanese calligraphy, also informs her art.
Made with oil, oil bar and graphite, her pieces are for the most part presented in neutral tones, a muted layering of grays, blacks, and whites that serve to highlight Ledbetter's compelling interaction of form and line. When color does appear, as in the brilliant burst of red in "La Palma," it is almost shocking in contrast.
Originally from Shreveport, Ledbetter titles her works after they are finished, taking ideas from the ditches and bayous of her native Louisiana. The imprint of nature on her work, in fact, likens Ledbetter to another abstract expressionist, Joan Mitchell, though without the latter's vivid color palette. Nonetheless, Ledbetter finds direct parallels between the natural world and her palimpsest-like technique of "letting go and destroying and throwing away and starting over."
"So many times I'll start painting and it is fine," she says. "Just the first strokes on that painting, it's good. But it isn't (really) because there's no history with it, and it won't stand on its own. That's when I have to erase the whole thing and try to remember to bring it back. It's that way with landscaping. A fresh garden just doesn't look right. It's got to grow and nurture and become something else and be destroyed by hurricanes and then watch what comes back. It's that whole history behind it that I find interesting."
--Bill Ellis, Go Memphis (November 2009)