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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 5, 2010
By Jo E. Prout
SARATOGA Soldiers in a parade some with brain injuries, others with post-traumatic stress syndrome, all proud and dignified step forward through a shower of confetti, ready to walk off a canvas that now hangs in the New York State Military Museum here. Local artist and Rumara Jewett, who grew up in Altamont, created the lifelike painting to honor veterans returning from war. Her painting, “Coming Home,” was installed at the military museum during a reception last week.
Jewett’s humble description of the painting’s journey there belies the effect the work has on the public.
“You make something, sort of for your own reasons, and people start responding to it in their own ways,” Jewett said.
A professional artist with an office and studio in Saratoga, Jewett began “Coming Home” two years ago, but funding for it fell through. The canvas spent months hanging unfinished on her own wall. First, she was painting it for someone, and then she was just “finishing it to get it done.”
On the way to the finish line, she met real soldiers from Scotia, Glenville, and Albany who ended up modeling for her in 2008. Renting costumes and using friends as models “wouldn’t have been as real and as solid,” she said.
“Being able to work with real people meant that it felt real as I was working on it,” Jewett said. She received permission to go on military bases to work with her models, including: Lt. Col. Robert Mitchell and Staff Sergeant Jacob Martin of the United States Army; Lt. Col. Kimberly Terpening of the Air National Guard; First Sergeant Ed Ackley of the United States Marine Corps; Lt. Col. Russell Howe, a National Guardsman; and LS1 James Savaria of the United States Navy.
“I could sort of feel their realness coming through,” Jewett said. “The greatest gift of this painting is that it’s …an artistic challenge a happy project that was great, challenging, and also fun.”
Jewett’s early work focused on real-looking livestock, often centered and peering right out of the canvas. Improving her techniques, Jewett now focuses on humans and horses.
“I definitely have moved more into portraits,” she said. “Not seated portraits, but of whatever people are doing. I really enjoy painting humans, with the exception of horses, which are complex. That was part of the attraction of doing the military painting. It was all people.”
Her work is a mixture of commissioned art and “stock” paintings for themed galleries.
“I do paintings for the local equine scene,” Jewett said. Much of her work is seen in Saratoga at the equine-themed Equidae Gallery. Jewett also paints for a Tanglewood-related gallery in Lennox, Mass. On her website, www.rumara.com, a portrait of a small girl at a racetrack, bending to pick up a spent ticket, draws the eye. Jewett laughed at the mention of this portrait. People often see it and remember fondly that they, too, picked up spent tickets as children, she said.
“Coming Home” was displayed at the Lincoln Public Library in June in Lincoln, Mass., a town with a population of about 3,000, where Jewett’s mother, Julie Jewett, formerly of Altamont, now lives.
Rumara Jewett saw an opening in the Saratoga military museum and asked for and received permission to display “Coming Home” there. A reception for July 30 had already been planned, she said.
“It had nothing to do with me,” Jewett said about the reception. She decided to invite the models from the painting, she said.
The military news and the local Saratoga paper did articles about the painting as the Lincoln paper had. With a population of 40,000, Saratoga was a larger audience than Jewett had expected.
“I was pretty shocked,” she said. “I am basically the caretaker [of the painting’s story] at this point.”
Jewett is trying to finish several equine-themed paintings, but she continues her studies once a week at the Woodstock School of Art, in Woodstock (Ulster Co.) with Master Zhang. Zhang’s work can be seen at www.zhangwoolley.com, she said.
Her three-dimensional painting is “an effect I’ve learned to create. I want them to look alive,” Jewett said of her subjects. “How do you make something that’s still look like it’s moving? The beauty of using oil paint is that you can make things look like they’re just jumping off the canvas.”
She also said, “I have been thinking about your question of what would I really like to paint if I could paint what I wanted to. I would be painting people…portraiture of not so much sitting, posing models, as of people doing things that are natural in their lives, where they are showing emotional involvement or expressing the emotions that go along with that activity that they are doing,” Jewett said.
“If I could choose, I would make the backgrounds more supportive of the central scene, even go abstract in the surrounding scene in order to help show the mood of the people doing what they are doing,” she said. “Also, I would always be using strong colors to show the emotions present.”
Jewett credits Zhang, and her weekly classes, with her success. “That’s from whom I’ve been learning how to paint big scenes with people in them. He’s an absolute master. There’s always more to learn. It’s just a process, year after year. I keep learning more stuff.”
About “Coming Home” Jewett concluded, “You do something you really like…It’s really enjoyed by [the public] for their own reasons…That’s kind of the idea, I think. It was a good experience to work on it. It’s just a real gift. I’m very lucky. I feel good about it.”