Changing the Lynns: The Rebirth of "TWIN"

Changing the Lynns: The Rebirth of "TWIN"
Jerry & Terry Lynn Reunite to Paint a New Perspective 

                                          by D. Amari Jackson                                              

Three decades ago, on a cool, cloudy Sunday evening in the fall of 1993, identical twins Terry and Jerry Lynn walked into Gestine’s Gallery at 156 Beale Street in Memphis. There, the aspiring artists—both freshman and recipients of full art scholarships from the University of Memphis—showed their respective portfolios to three men who would help change their lives.

The first was cubist, blues-inspired artist, George Hunt, who, that same year, exploded on the national scene with his I Am A Man tribute to the sanitation worker’s strike, a now iconic piece hanging in the National Museum of Civil Rights. 

“George Hunt was preparing for a one man exhibition at the Museum of American Art in Boston,” recalls Jerry, of the late Gestine-managed signature artist who would become the twins’ mentor. “We also met Keith Golden who was publishing a print and helping Mr. Hunt with the logistics for that show” and  “were introduced to Willis Drinkard, the gallery owner, who was there as well. We ended up coming back the next week and establishing a gallery relationship with Mr. Drinkard.”

With Hunt’s guidance, the talented brothers launched their respective careers from the popular gallery on the world-renowned Beale Street, an historic destination for blues music and Black culture. 

“Just being around all these great influences from music to blues to jazz, and being in a gallery setting where they were showcasing African American artwork in a professional manner was really something that changed our world,” remembers Terry who, at the time, “didn’t know the difference between an art gallery and an art museum. I did art because I enjoyed doing it.”

About a year into their relationship, Hunt made a suggestion that changed everything. Given their respective talent, their inherent creative connection, and a prior collaboration on a well-received painting in high school, Hunt advised the brothers to combine their skills commercially and paint works togethersimultaneously, on the same canvas—under the brand “TWIN.”  

The impact was seismic as the art industry took notice of the combined, unique talent of the twin brothers. The popularity of their work soared and, before long, the brothers were celebrated and exhibited at venues around the country. Over the following two decades, among other honors, they were designated the official artists of the Essence Music Awards, the Tom Joyner Foundation Cruise, the Links, the Kentucky Derby Grand Gala, and the Black Enterprise Golf & Tennis Challenge. They were featured in numerous publications and television programs and were exhibited at such prominent venues as the Philadelphia Art Expo and the Black Fine Art Show in New York. By 2007, the two brothers from Memphis had made a sizable impact on the art world with brisk sales and a brand name that carried substantial weight.

Then, once again, things began to change. Challenged by a number of creative and commercial differences, the brothers endured a five-year stretch where they were not on the same page and that would ultimately see them go their separate ways. While Terry stayed in the Memphis area, Jerry subsequently relocated with his family to Dallas, Texas, effectively ending their highly-successful run as TWIN.   

Until now. This month, the talented brothers are exhibiting their TWIN collaborative painting process at the Harlem Fine Art Show in New York. 

“This will be the first time in over 10 years that they have gone to a national fine art fair and have actually done a collaboration together,” says Keith Golden, attorney and owner of Art by Golden/Golden Galleries, LLC and the Black Fine Art Fair. Over the years, Golden has represented TWIN in numerous areas including intellectual property rights, property rights consulting, and contract negotiations. “They will have some of their individual works there and they will also have some of their TWIN works there,” explains the art dealer. “So it’s gonna be an exciting time.”

Featured at the exhibit—and symbolizing the full circle evolution of TWIN—is a reimagination of the first serigraph by TWIN that Golden published almost three decades ago, From Whence We Came. “They took the progression screens and did a collaboration on those five screens to create five unique and original mixed media pieces,” says Golden, detailing their employment of acrylic and collage with “boards, fabrics, and all sorts of things. They numbered them 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, and the title of the series is the Lynn Family Fabric, the Rebirth of the Twins From Whence We Came.”

Fittingly, it was the Lynn family that provided the moral, cultural and communal fabric from whence came the twins. Born in Memphis in 1975, the brothers were raised in Arlington, a rural town with an historic Black community just northeast of the city. They were heavily influenced by their parents, their father, an architect; their mother, a Head Start teacher; their grandmother, a quilter; and their grandfather, a brick mason. 

“It was closeknit, family-oriented, and everybody knew everybody,” depicts Terry, of their childhood neighborhood in Arlington. “We grew up in a very religious family, going to church every Sunday, choir rehearsal every week, bible study, and all that.” He further stresses how “we grew up around doers and builders, people who do things with their hands” and how the twins’ later paintings often included a white church in the background symbolizing their “small, white, cinderblock masonry church that my grandfather actually built.” 

Along with early parental encouragement, recognition of their talent by schoolteachers, and practice gained by painting houses and buildings with their grandfather, the brothers had earned significant reputations and awards for their artistic skills by the time they graduated high school. Among these awards were full academic scholarships for both teens to the University of Memphis where they would study to become architects like their dad.

Those plans didn’t last long. “We flunked out,” reveals Jerry, before correcting himself. “I don't know how we both did it identically, but we both—well, we technically didn’t flunk out because we stayed in school, but our GPAs were so low that we lost our scholarships and they put us on probation,” clarifies Jerry. He emphasizes “it was a pivotal time because it made us realize that this is serious” and that “life is serious. I don’t know exactly what that conversation was, but I remember talking to my brother and we felt like we had to do something” to ensure future success, so “we both decided to change our majors to art. He went into painting and fine arts and I ended up changing to graphic design.”

About the same time as these changes, which would ultimately prove fruitful and lead to the respective reinstatement of their scholarships, the twins made their pivotal visit to Gestine’s Gallery, met Hunt, and secured representation. They gradually sold individual works of art for at least a year—Jerry offering airbrushed portraiture of popular characters and sports stars like Michael Jordan, Terry sitting in the gallery window painting musical scenes as street tours walked by—before Hunt made his life-changing suggestion. 

“George Hunt’s influence on them was that he felt their work would be even stronger if they concentrated more diligently as a collaborative effort,” says Golden, noting how “they created a major following under that iconic name, TWIN, even though  Terry and Jerry individually are both very strong painters and artists. But their collaborative work under the TWIN moniker has just created a synergy that I have not seen anything like.” 

“The most intriguing part for me as a collector and a lover of art was for them to paint together,” says Angela Lee, an interior designer and avid collector of numerous TWIN works over the past two decades. The owner of Evolution by Design in Missouri City, Texas regularly recommends TWIN artwork to her clients while praising their “execution of color” and simultaneous process. “That, in itself, spoke volumes early on because you could not tell” more than one person was painting, marvels Lee, adding it “was one of the primary things I loved about their work.”

TWIN work is further distinguished by the versatility of its artists given both brothers are well versed in a variety of painting styles, in oil or acrylic, in fine art printmaking, in culture and history, in social justice, and in the rich family tradition they hail from. Such versatility would come into play years later upon their artistic separation. 

“I had created individual paintings throughout our former collaborative years,” acknowledges Terry, who would subsequently exhibit as a solo artist while exploring sculpture, photography, and public art. “The process of gradually building a body of work that I felt was stylistically different from our TWIN work took a few years.” 

At the time, although his brother Jerry was also very capable of forging his own artistic lane, he felt no need to do so. 

“I never decided to separate creatively,” clarifies Jerry, explaining there “was never a desire to do individual work apart from TWIN. It wasn’t until Terry started putting more effort into his individual art that I started to realize we were no longer TWIN.”  He references a 2012 solo show by his brother in Jackson, Mississippi that “I knew nothing about. Nor did my parents tell me who was there in attendance,” says Jerry, who felt “left in the dark. Although, at the time, I felt betrayed by the fact he had planned a show without telling me, I eventually came to realize that my brother had decided to move in a different direction, and I had to respect that.”  

Change seldom comes easy, especially for two brothers who appeared the same and had done the same things for most of their lives. Despite being life’s sole constant, few are prepared for its disruptions, its instabilities, its lack of security or guarantees. Whether abrupt or cyclical, change commonly confronts us, challenging us with difficult dynamics or decisions we can either embrace or flee from, adapt to or reject, the latter commonly to our detriment. 

“Looking back at it, I think it was a natural growth process for me,” reflects Terry, acknowledging that “we were having some internal artistic and business conflicts with each other and were just trying to figure things out.” So, it was “just a natural progression into doing individual work that I needed personally. And I think we both needed it.” He details how the separation was an opportunity for him to explore other artistic mediums and a successful solo career. “That was the time when I went back to school and got my MFA as well. Maybe, at the time, I didn’t see it all but, looking back, I definitely think it was just a natural progression and what was needed for me as an artist and as a man.”  

Jerry generally agrees with his brothers assessment of the separation, except for the characterization of it as a “natural” process. “Like I’ve said before, that was a kind of a big shock to me,” he says, given that “up to that point, I didn’t see that as an option. I was looking at it as a ‘we are in this together’ thing, and I really didn’t want to separate.” But, over time—and upon moving to Texas and establishing himself as a prominent solo artist—Jerry’s  perspective on and acceptance of the separation changed. “It was definitely needed. It was an opportunity for me to grow up and take care of my family on my own as before I was dependent on my brother and I to make that happen.” Along with his successful solo career, the move brought better schools for his kids, increased revenues for his wife’s clothing store, and an opportunity for him to teach in the Dallas public school system. “That move ended up being one of the best things that’s ever happened to me and my family,” says Jerry, adding “those things probably wouldn’t have happened if we were continually working together. So it’s been a blessing.”

Given the brothers feel blessed to be working together again, such change has come full circle. 

“I really look at life from a spiritual standpoint and the way I handle change is accepting life as it’s given to me, rolling with the punches, so to speak,” offers Terry, noting “I try to just continue to spiritually grow in that way. But I know it’s not always gonna be smooth sailing.” Still, he says, “as far as getting upset or depressed, I might have such moments of reflection, but I really have a positive outlook on things and believe that everything happens for a reason.”

For Jerry, change is now something “I look forward to. I don’t want to be comfortable.” Because  of the “different changes I’ve had to go through, my feelings have evolved from when I was younger. At this moment in life, change is great. I want things to change because it tells me something is on the horizon, something is about to happen, good or bad. It is still gonna be an opportunity for me to grow, make a decision, or do something.” 

“I just kind of took on this attitude,” continues Jerry, of “bring on the change, bring on the different circumstances, for I want them in my life to challenge me, to sharpen me, to keep me alert, because being comfortable is definitely not the place I want to be.” 

Fortunately, the exhibit in Harlem this month is the place where both Jerry and Terry want to be. And their creative story is far from over as they plan to keep working together beyond New York, and given they are the subject of an upcoming documentary film based on their dual lives in art. 

While admitting there are still some things they have to work through as business partners and brothers, Terry characterizes their artistic reunion as “a beautiful thing. I’m looking forward to seeing it grow and blossom.” He reflects on how “we were always taught to be around each other—you  know, you are your ‘brother’s keeper’—and I think he kind of took that to heart.” But “we have an individual life too, and we should support one another in that as well and be happy for each other. And then the TWIN work, that is something that should be cherished equally.”

Ultimately, as the talented identical twin brothers have discovered, change can also be healthy.

“I'm taking on this change with the renewed sense of who I am as a person,” affirms Jerry. “It is a wonderful thing to have the opportunity to work on this project” and on “whatever the future holds in front of us. I’m going to go all the way in—100 percent, 110 percent—with a renewed sense of self, a renewed sense of family, and a renewed sense of what this is all about.” 



Terry & Jerry Lynn "TWIN"

Will be represented at the Harlem Fine Art Show By " Art By Golden/Golden Galleries, LLC where the curator is Keith A. Golden, Esq. The booth for Golden Galleries is "Booth #102". Saturday 2/24/2024 at 6pm Terry and Jerry will unveil " The Lynn Family Fabric, From Whence We Came, Rebirth of the " TWIN". For further information on these fine art Giclee and Serigraph projects follow us on IG:

Black Fine Art Fair
Best regards,
Keith G

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