Artist leaves Sri Lanka but can’t escape it

Camille Gavin, 17 August from

A photo by Sri Lankan artist Jerome Lazarus, part of a collection of his work on display now at the Reiter Gallery Art Parlor in Bakersfield.

Some day soon, Jerome Lazarus hopes to resume his profession of filmmaking, but not in Sri Lanka, his native country. His departure was not by choice. “I was forced to leaveSri Lankain 2007 and I’m here now on a green card,” the 36-year-old said. “I’m applying for political asylum in theUnited States; my next hearing is in December inSan Francisco.” For the past two months Lazarus has had an exhibit of about 36 photos and several collages at the Reiter Gallery Art Parlor in downtown Bakersfield. The closing reception is Friday evening and he’s hoping proceeds from his photo sales will help to pay his attorney fees for the hearing.

Lazarus is reluctant to provide any details about the reasons for his expulsion out of concern for family members still living in Sri Lanka, a large island nation in the Indian Ocean that has suffered 25 years of civil war. The photographer said the country now has a stable government. Previously, he operated his own production house and focused on personal biographies, documentary films and commercials for private organizations. He still hopes to create a documentary called “Save the Innocent” on the current rehabilitation of child soldiers in Sri Lanka.In an “iReport” segment broadcast on CNN, Lazarus said, “Now thatSri Lankais at peace, these children must learn to move forward and live life post-war. My documentary will be about these children. I am taking this opportunity to raise awareness about my country.”

Nearly all of his pictures at the Reiter Gallery show more peaceful scenes. Some were taken inSri Lanka, others in this country and at least two — one of an almond orchard, the other ofIsabellaLake– were taken inKernCounty. One, called “Asian Buddhas,” which shows a collection of identical Buddha sculptures, is notable for the way the light falls on the half-lidded eyes of the seated stone figures. Another piece that is fascinating both for its perspective and its composition was taken inSan Francisco.

Lazarus has given it the title “English Sycamores” and provided this explanation of the subject matter: “When faced with the scarring involved in trying to control nature at the San Francisco Civic Center Plaza, artist Patrick Dougherty installed an environmental sculpture, ‘The Upper Crust,’ made of 18,000 (pounds) of freshly cut willow saplings interwoven into the treetops.”

Lazarus came to Bakersfield in 2008 as a representative for a hair products company and says he now considers it his home. For the past two years he has worked for Valley Decal as a screen printer.



Filed under cultural transmission, life stories, unusual people

4 responses to “Artist leaves Sri Lanka but can’t escape it

  1. padraigcolman

    Sri Lanka’s loss is Bakersfield’s gain it seems. “Lazarus came to Bakersfield in 2008 as a representative for a hair products company and says he now considers it his home.” I passed through Bakersfield once but all I can remember is a McDonald’s. There was once a weird TV series called Bakersfield PD starring Giancarlo Esposito. Buck Owens and the Buckaroos came from Bakersfield. Why is Lazarus so coy about needing asylum? Has Channel 4 found evidence of discrimination against hair products salesmen?

  2. infant

    it would have been very informative if mr.Lazarus gave the reason for
    applying for political asylum .then we can knw what type of injustice happened to him.

  3. On the video here, it appears that GoSL and/or MoD were displeased Lazarus’s photo/video journalism during the war. He says he was imprisoned and threatened, just for taking film reports etc. If true, sounds like typical GoSL over-reaction to a reporter just doing his job. Shameful.

  4. padraigcolman

    What about the hair products?!

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