Scanning Jeanine Newcomb’s latest series of oil paintings feels like looking at a stranger’s camera roll without permission. Her paintings, all with people as the primary focus, aren’t hyper-realistic. Their smiles are off-kilter, their limbs uneven.
“I make paintings using photos as reference, not to make paintings look like photos,” Newcomb said.
Newcomb, a St. Petersburg artist and illustrator, has an exhibit, Looking Through the Window, at the Morean Arts Center through Aug. 25.
She paints personal moments between friends and strangers, women lounging in their living rooms, a fleeting moment between a posed subject and her viewer. The intimate feelings are intentional, Newcomb says.
“Words are inadequate to capture an intimate feel, but I will say that painting to me is extremely intimate,” she adds. “It’s a bond between the painter, the subjects (human and otherwise), and the materials…I f intimacy is conveyed in my work, I have accomplished that goal.”
Young Newcomb grew up in Pennsylvania and went into the art of working with her hands. She worked in construction, installed decorative tile, and worked as a roofer, among other construction trades. Eventually she earned a bachelor’s in drawing and a master’s degree in psychology, then used her background to teach both art and special education in Pinellas.
It’s in the classroom that Newcomb inspires.
Gina Spano was an AP art student in Newcomb’s class at Seminole High School nearly a decade ago.
But Spano, an artist herself now, still remembers the influence of Newcomb’s teaching.
Who are these people in Jeanine’s window?
“Regarding the people in these paintings: some are loved ones, some strangers,” she says. “‘Damon F Ball Henderson’ is a beautiful student of mine who was killed in a police chase. ‘Tree Woman’ was a true phenomenon. ‘Looking Through the Window’ is an homage to the days of Jungle Prada.”
She’s vague, but really, the complicated stories of her painted people are left to the viewer.
“Each painting in the series has a personal story, however, like the architect Eugène Ionesco wrote, ‘explanation separates us from astonishment’,” Newcomb told The Gabber. “I prefer the viewer to interpret the stories themselves.”
While Newcomb is no stranger to exhibiting her art in Tampa Bay, she earned her solo-show spot in the Morean this summer after winning the center’s 2021 Margaret Murphy Steward Best of Show.
It’s tradition for the Morean to grant a solo spot in the gallery.
“Jeanine is the 10th artist to receive this opportunity, and we are pleased to showcase her latest narrative paintings during this time,” the Morean wrote on their website.
See for yourself: The Morean Arts Center, 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Through Aug. 25: Mon-Sat, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.