Jerome Walker was born an artist. From the moment he first learned to hold a pencil, Walker began drawing on everything he could find-including on walls with his sister's lipstick. Despite being visually impaired, he built a career as a painter, showing in London, Chicago and Paris.
In 2010, one of his paintings appeared in the Regional Juried Show at the San Diego Art Institute. Displayed next to the painting was the artist's dedication: "This painting is gratefully dedicated to Donald and Darlene Shiley and Dr. Weinreb and Dr. Schanzlin of the Shiley Eye Center at UC San Diego,, La Jolla without whose help this painting (and possibly the artist himself) might never have seen the light of day."
Walker was nearly blind from glaucoma when he first came to UC San Diego's Shiley Eye Center, but his impaired vision dates back to his youth. Due to a childhood illness, he was blind by the age of nine and underwent extensive treatment that left him with scar tissue over both corneas, severely limiting his vision for the rest of his life.
After graduating from high school, Walker received a Rehabilitation Scholarship For The Visually Impaired to The Art Institute of Chicago. As Walker himself put it, "This was akin to a nearly deaf person going to music school." Although Walker had always drawn, at this point he began to flourish as an artist, developing his own, unique style and his work was soon shown in Universities and galleries in the U.S. and Europe, winning several awards.
Walker then moved to London with his first wife and painted there for two years. Upon returning to the U.S., the couple divorced and Walker raised his three children on his own for the next fourteen years until he met his present wife, Julie, an artists and photographers representative. Walker has been a free lance illustrator, designer, and Senior Art Director for the Leo Burnett Advertising Agency where he divided his time between Chicago and Hollywood, creating over 120 television commercials.
Thanks to company insurance, Walker received his first cornea transplant in the left eye. When the bandage was removed and he returned home, he was amazed at the riot of colors on an Afghan coverlet draped over a chair, colors he had not seen since he was nine years old.
In the year 2000, Walker and his wife, Julie moved to San Diego, but within a year, he developed cataracts and glaucoma in both eyes and his first cornea transplant failed after 15 years. After undergoing numerous surgeries and three more cornea transplants, Walker's vision, at least in one eye, has returned enough for him to paint again and his new work has been accepted into many juried exhibitions and, recently, four art books, winning numerous awards.
- "An Artist's Vision; Shiley Eye Center Helps Local Artist Return To His Canvas" by Kristin Luciani (excerpted courtesy Shiley Eye Center at UC San Diego)
"Zebra Drawings" by Chicagoan Jerome Walker comprise a provocative and handsome exhibition at Adele Rosenberg's Gallery. Executed during a period of illness. the 25 skillful works are filled with symbolism of pain, torture and hope, conscious or unconscious and surrealist in exposition. Stripes predominate and appear, besides on the ever-present zebra, as lengths of knotted furling material, rugs or floors, even tiny objects, in the ingeniously imaginative compositions. Hospital equipment, including the examination table on which the zebra lies, (himself?), charts, the labyrinth and other geometric shapes figure prominently. Handsome nudes and tiny monkeys accompany the zebra at times and relieve the macabre milieu. Fine organization and beautiful draughtsmanship increase the magic of their irrational, nightmare content. Walker is clearly an artist of stature hereabouts.
- Skyline, "Alberta On Art" by Alberta Friedlander
After giving the impression, by it's announcement, that art in Chicago might be unveiled by lifting a sewer lid, the recent CBS color spectacular, "I See Chicago: Eye On Art" was a pleasant hour of hokum with only peripheral insight into the real business of art here...the old master painters Ivan Albright and Boris Anisfeld are senior to a notable group that includes...Jerome Walker...and many more. Chicago needs to be reminded that it's sensational younger artists are joining the ranks of some real professionals, and the picture tube should present the full picture.
- Chicago Sun-Times, "TV Missed Big Picture" by Harold Haydon
A truly excellent show of pencil drawings by Jerome Walker fills the Adele Rosenberg Gallery, 226 E. Ontario, for this month. Walker's favorite animal, the zebra, here meets tragedy in veiled allegories of factory-like hospitals, it's disembodied stripes rising like incense while bones pour into charnel pits. With contour lines and tones of parallel lines, Walker develops his private iconography of transfiguration with feeling that is inescapable in the drawings.
- Chicago Sun-Times
...in Adele Rosenberg's Gallery, Jerome Walker marks his return..after two years in London with a fine show of painted collages..."The Zebra Series". With color and per- spective devices, Walker dares to "hollow out" the canvas, in Seurat's classic phrase, and constructs dynamic, 3-dimensional compositions in defiance of post-cubist dogma about the sacred picture plane...he has not lost the biting social commentary that distinguished earlier work.
- Chicago Sun-Times by Harold Haydon
Seeing the paintings of Jerome Walker is a bittersweet experience. For various reasons, this is a inevitable response to his recent works, "The Arena Series" at the Adele Rosenberg Gallery. The subjects of these canvases are the performers who strut across the arena of the circus. Even though clowns and acrobats and monkeys are the principal actors in these dramas, the theme is anything but gay. Walker rejects the traditional attitude towards circus life, but he does not follow the interpretation made popular by Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso. These two artists, continuing a tradition that goes back through Daumier to Watteau, saw these merrymakers as so many masks of un- happiness and depravation. Walker, however, views these people as murky, sub-human forms... ...all the figures in their haziness are depicted as if in a whirlwind. They seem either in a state of becoming or in the act of dissolving. Inasmuch as they have no concrete form, they imitate that cruel Pascalian dilemma of being simultaneously divine and demonic.The deft handling of the ape not only charges the work with an uncommon degree of conviction and emotion, but it also assures us of Walker's considerable reservoir of talent.
- Chicago Sun-Times, "Bittersweet Circus" by Paul Moses
...work for work, a more important show is at the Adele Rosenberg Gallery.. where Jerome Walker's "Arena" paintings and constructions are shown through May 6. The Arena is defined in terms of all life and it's essence in action and becoming. Whether painting monkeys, dancers, city traffic...Walker seizes the multiple-moment when a figure, blurred or doubled or tripled, yields caught-in-the-act verisimilitude. Although collages, photo-montages and some fine construction are included, good old oil paint serves Walker best for the transitions of arena spotlighting, to express the vision of motion, and to give quality to the painted surface. This painting is in dead earnest. ...he paints easily with a high order of invention as well as copious production. It all augers well for growth and for recognition in Europe where he now heads.
- Chicago Sun-Times, "Paintings Vie In Shows" by Harold Haydon