By Jerry Ross

Art is often a reflection of the artist’s inner world.  That has certainly been true for me in recent months, as I find myself grappling with the challenge of semi-blindness. Doctors believe that my diminished vision may be caused by Giant Cell Arteritis, a condition that swells the optic nerve, and shrouds my world in a foggy white filter. This visual impairment has made it incredibly difficult to discern the nuances of dark and light, the four essential values crucial for painting. Despite this adversity, I’ve eagerly embarked on a momentous journey of self-discovery through my art.

My current artistic journey seeks expression through a series of “black paintings.” This new direction reveals a profound exploration of my own vision, both in terms of artistic expression and the physical limitations imposed by my current health condition. My recent paintings, inspired by the French master Pierre Soulages are often infused with the spirit of the Oregon coast.  They have become symbols of my own personal and professional transformation and a testament to the power of art in the face of adversity.

Pierre Soulages, renowned for his all-black paintings with intricate incisions that create a dance of light and shadow, served as a catalyst for my own artistic odyssey into the realm of darkness. Unlike Soulages, my black paintings are representational, drawing inspiration from the rugged beauty of the Oregon coast. These paintings are not just an exploration of color, but also a journey into the depths of my own perception.  (below – “Yachats” – oil on canvas)

My black paintings are a departure from my colorful landscape and portrait work, which I have done for years. This altered direction marks a new chapter in my artistic evolution, which has been validated by the sale of the painting, “Yachats,” to a buyer on The sale was an affirmation of my unique style, a testament to the power of art to transcend limitations.

My Bardo Paintings

“Bardo” the indeterminate state, painting with “mentation”

My vision impairment has forced me to adapt and evolve as an artist. While I struggle to perceive the overall value relationships in my paintings, I’ve found solace in the world of the “bardo.” The term “bardo” refers to an intermediate state or transitional process, a concept from Tibetan Buddhism. In my current state of visual impairment, I exist in a sort of “bardo” state, where new possibilities emerge as old ones fade away.

“Bardo 2” oil on wood panel

My “black paintings” have given birth to a series of abstract designs inspired by the bardo state. These paintings, marked by bold strokes and gestural abstraction, are a departure from my previous work. By focusing on each brushstroke and its placement within the composition, I’ve achieved a tighter underpainting that provides structure for subsequent layers of paint.

Thinking like Leonardo da Vinci, I’ve come to appreciate the subtleties of chiaroscuro and the delicate transitions that exist in this intermediate state. Leonardo’s practice of finding inspiration in stains on walls, known as “macchia,” resonates with me now more than ever. I’ve learned to apply mentation (the ability to concentrate on a subject) to my painting process. In this half-blind state, I can imagine and see deeper layers of visual reality, akin to Leonardo’s creative process.

The Bardo Guide Creature Series




“Bar Dough”


This is a fantasy creature that leaped out from my pen. They are positive harbingers of good energy and joy.

My current vision problems ushered in a psychological crisis that impelled me to return to my knowledge of Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism., My current series of black paintings are inspired by this tradition. I invented bardo and guarda characters to protect me during my own passage through the bardos.

These are not part of my series of black paintings, but rather colorful abstract designs.


The six intermediate states (bardo) help us to live a better life, while preparing for death and beyond.

  • Bardo of Life.
  • Bardo of Dream.
  • Bardo of Meditation.
  • Bardo of Death.
  • Bardo of Dharmatā
  • Bardo of Becoming.

In my journey through the bardos, I’ve created the “Bardo Guide Creature Series,” inspired by Tibetan teachings on the six intermediate states. These characters serve as guardians during my passage through the bardos, providing protection and guidance during this challenging time.

Despite my current health condition, I’ve also embraced a new creative dimension, crafting digital pieces that symbolize the raw creativity within us all. These pieces burst with vibrant colors and bold forms, reflecting the joyful experimentation that art inspires.

My “black paintings” are not just a testament to my artistic evolution but also a reflection of my personal journey through the bardo state of vision impairment. They remind us that art has the power to transcend physical limitations and to explore the depths of human creativity. You can view my black, bardo, and guarda inspired paintings on  May these paintings be for the viewer a testament to the enduring spirit of art in the face of adversity.

As a lifelong painter, I hope to instill in other artists this essential resilience and artistic exploration, proving that even in the darkest of times, creativity can shine through.


Note: In crafting this digital piece, I embraced a symphony of abstract forms and a touch of spontaneity. The minimalistic yet futuristic vibes emerge through bold, unfiltered strokes, symbolizing the innate, raw creativity that lies within us all. It’s a jubilant dance of color and form, unconstrained and joyfully experimental, designed to inject a burst of energetic whimsy into any living space and awaken the playful, adventurous spirit we often forget in the tumult of life.

The Black, Bardo, and Guarda paintings can be seen at


Jerry Ross https:/


Brief Art Bio

  1. Buffalo, N.Y. 1944. Attended Buffalo Art Institute (Albright Art School). Studied privately under Anthony Sisti. Involved in political activism while at the University of Buffalo. 1972 moved to Arizona to paint on the Arizona-Mexican border. Arrived Eugene 1974 and led several arts initiatives: President of New Zone Arts Collective for 6 years; founder of the Salon des Refuses and Diva Art Gallery; with his wife, Angela Ross, traveled annually to Italy (from 1991-2022); Met American WWII veterans in Livergnano, Italy, and later was commissioned by them to make a film showcasing interviews with these vets at WWII Museum in New Orleans. Exhibits in Rome, Florence, Milan, Bologna & Terni in Italy; participated in group show at Secession Museum, Vienna, Austria; numerous shows in Eugene, Springfield, Corvallis, Newport and many other Oregon cities. Collaborated with Italian film makers in Milan (La Tavola Italiana) on a documentary film for the 2015 Expo. Created a style called “American Verismo” based on dal vero (after life or truth) and founded the Club Macchia group of artists exhibiting in Oregon. Taught painting at Maude Kerns Art Center, UO Craft Center, and privately at several locations. Created the annual “plein-air paint-out” in Brownsville, OR during “Stand By Me” days.

Awards and Recognitions:

  1. 2010 and 2013 visiting artist/scholar, American Academy in Rome
  2. 2006 Gold medal and exhibit for art competition in Milan – Corsico, Italy.
  3. 2004 Jury Award Mayor’s Show, Eugene, Oregon
  4. 2001 Juror’s award at the 31st annual Willamette Valley Juried show in Corvallis
  5. 2000 Mayor’s Choice award for Art Show at Jacobs Gallery Eugene