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Biography

After graduate school, my husband Frank and I moved to Galveston Island, Texas where we raised our two children. I taught painting and art history at College of the Mainland and was the director of their art gallery where I exhibited work by Wayne Thiebaud, Alex Katz, Paul Georges, Alice Neel, Janet Fish, Rackstraw Downes, Jane Freilicher, Philip Pearlstein, and Neil Welliver among others.

Twenty-one years later we moved to Florida where painting on location in the swamps was a weekly adventure. Finishing a painting in one sitting forced an immediacy of approach---no time to overwork, no time to refine, no time to second-guess that first impression.

Jean Wetta in her studio In Island Heights, NJ
Jean Wetta in her studio in Island Heights, NJ

In 2002, we moved to the Jersey Shore an hour and a half from New York and Philadelphia. Again we find ourselves on an island---this time at the juncture of the Toms River and Barnegat Bay. Frank is a professor of history at Kean University and I continue to paint full-time. The light on the New Jersey coast is much less intense than in the South. We have lots of snow. The landscape has more umbers and shades of ochre, blacks, whites and grays. It is more abstract and moody.

An even greater influence, however, has been the great 19th C, trompe l'oeil painter John F. Peto. We live around the corner from his studio. It is as he left it at his death in 1907. Ever since being introduced to his work in a 1982 article in Portfolio Magazine, I have loved both his small, simply structured still lifes and his "fool the eye" approach.

In 1999, Eleanor Jones Harvey, now Chief Curator, Smithsonian American Art Museum, wrote in an essay for the catalogue of my traveling retrospective exhibition: "Perhaps most compelling about Jean Wetta’s work is its underlying mystical and spiritual sensibility. Far from being straightforwardly representational, her works are invested with metaphor and mysticism." I hope that remains true today.

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