After living in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the past 20 years, Jean and her husband came home to the east coast and settled in Portland, Maine. Jean studied with Marshall Glazier and Leo Manso at the Art Students League in New York City, and she has been painting images of buildings in landscapes for many years. Her paintings have won numerous awards from an impressive roster of judges, including Will Barnet. She received the prestigious Champion International Corporation Award at the Silvermine Guild Center for the Art (New Canaan, CT) in 1985.
In her new series of paintings, Jean Jack again takes the relationship between landscape and buildings as the initial departure point for the formal investigations of her paintings. The buildings fit themselves into the landscape, and the sky fills in the spaces between the two. In the traditional regionalist parlance, the way this triangle of specifics interrelates is called a 'sense of place'.
There is a poignant sense of unease and even loneliness in the places Jack paints, however, which is underscored by her dramatic contrasts of complementary colors, and her equally dramatic transitions between reality and unreality. Despite Jack's use of very real houses and churches as models, these are realistic paintings only in a sense. 'Idealistic' is perhaps a better word for the convincing power of the very simplified forms and colors. These bright, sensitive paintings are more of an exquisite arrangement of elements that express an essential feeling about houses in the country from California to Maine rather than a view out of a window.
It could be asked why these images of houses are so appealing. They are, after all, even lonelier than Edward Hopper's paintings, and even more abstract than the homespun universal truths of folk art. In the most literal way, houses are an immediate necessity in our lives. They provide us with shelter and warmth, social status and a physical place in our community. Our homes are also a metaphor for who we are, who we wish we were, and where we want to be. According to the language of dreams, houses are even symbols of ourselves: complex interrelationships of interior and exterior realities, unconscious and conscious lives. Jean Jack has a talent for presenting these many layers of meanings in a few deft strokes of color, or a few carefully chosen shapes.
Perhaps most importantly, Jack conveys the quiet dignity of these architectural shapes as she rearranges them, tries them out from different perspectives, composes them in varying color relationships, and emphasizes the specific beauty of different forms. One senses that she becomes close to her subjects in the way that other artists grow attached to their human models. She paints variations of specific houses from different perspectives and at different times of the year. She loves these buildings for their imperfections and idiosyncrasies; and it is both impossible and unimportant to know exactly when or where these places exist, because they are creations of the artist.
"America's Heartland influences the bulk of my work. Utilitarian structures that have a weather history are far more hauntingly lonely expressions than the congestion of suburban city life. Shapes occurring by circumstance intrigue me far more than deliberate artifice."
- Jean Jack