If you’ve never seen Gerome Meminger paint, it’s nothing short of mesmerizing. He slips on his black painting shoes—immediately reminding you of a Jackson Pollack canvas—slides a white smock over his shirt, presses a black, pinstriped fedora over his closely-cut, salt and pepper hair, cues the music—typically jazz; he loves “Georgia on my Mind”—and then he caresses the canvas, surveying the surface for its sweet spot. Meminger pauses, and then aggressively tints the once colorless. He bobs and weaves like a prizefighter with a pallet knife and a brush, swiping and scraping, right hand rapidly tapping against the surface.
The 61-year-old Hampton, Virginia, resident and military veteran has been captivating audiences for the past 15 years. He describes his style as “Abstract bordering on Impressionism,” but prefers to call it “in the moment.”
“I paint what’s in the moment,” he expounds. “One day I’ll do a landscape, the next I’ll do an impression of a guy playing the saxophone, and then another day I’ll paint a vase of flowers.
I don’t have one subject. If I’m feeling it, I just paint.”
Meminger’s adoration of live music became the accelerant that ignited his career and popularity. While painting at his studio in downtown Hampton—across from the Sun Trust building—he observed a block party happening. He collected his easel, brushes and acrylics, set up outside and began painting. And people gawked. “I painted to the music and people asked to buy them wet,” he recalls. “That’s how I came up with my term ‘Wet Sale.’” Since then, Meminger has shared the stage alongside open mic poets and country, rock and jazz musicians.
“I set up, paint and people buy,” Meminger says. “It’s fun because as you paint and the image on the canvas becomes more recognizable to the crowd, people scream, ‘I see a saxophone! I see a baby grand piano!’
“When the notes come out, I start building my painting. If it’s rock, I’m painting even faster. The music drives me, I’m bopping my head and patting my feet and going with it.”
Known for his speed, Meminger painted a custom-built, 12-foot by 8-foot canvas in an hour and fifteen minutes during Hampton’s dedication of the LOVE sculpture. He’s also painted
on live television, as a guest on Round Robin, finishing in less than 5 minutes. “When in front of the canvas, I’m zoned,” he says.
Meminger believes that art has a transforming power in the mental and emotional health of the observer. “To me, art is medicine,” he says. “Art is a form of smiling. It gets your blood flowing.” He thinks that incorporating art in to corporate offices would help reduce stress, boost creativitity and help workers feel a sense of pride in their workplace. “Art can stimulate your workforce. I know that people don’t look at art in that way, but it can set the mood for [your office environment],” he attests.
Gerome is currently showing at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center.