On display in the Connie A. Eastburn Gallery:

What Dreams May Come
By Jean Sbarra Jones


January 15 – March 26
Gallery Hours:
8:30 am–4:30 pm

“I started painting costumed figures in graduate school. The figures eventually became characters in narrative paintings, mainly of brooding women alone, drinking, smoking and talking on the phone in a hotel room. The dress became my subject after graduate school. I had left over costumes, and no models. I also went through a personal transformation and the angst women narrative was no longer of interest to me. I painted the clothing as still-life material at first and then a few years ago while on a boat with my husband I placed the dress in the ocean. The shape and texture of the fabric, the quality of the light and the differences between the wet and dry areas of the dress compelled me to make the dress in water my new subject.

I contributed my healthier lifestyle to a move towards a general spirituality that consisted of practicing yoga and non-burdensome parts of Buddhist philosophy. I was content in my idea of a higher power although still considered myself a spiritual “seeker”. I was very critical and actually terrified of Christianity. The only Christians I had heard of were non-artists, very conservative and uncool. At the time, it seemed that my resistance was actually attracting Christians to me. This caused great anxiety about a possible calling which I denied. One summer night I encountered what I know now was the Holy Spirit in a dream that involved a direct question about Jesus. The answer came as the wind in the middle of the night. I gradually sought out the Christian faith and became a believer. My current work is somewhat narrative, mysterious and fragile. Upon reflection, the dress revealed itself as a metaphor. The worn and well-traveled dress represents renewal by light and water, also a baptism of sorts.”

Jean Sbarra Jones creates poetry in her luminous acrylic paintings of dresses floating in bodies of water. She lives in the North Shore of Massachusetts where she has spent many days on a boat with her husband casting a fishing line attached to a vintage dress. The dresses have travelled from Massachusetts to Aruba, inspiring a body of work rich in narrative and hauntingly beautiful.

Jean is an award-winning artist, holding a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from Boston University College of Art. She has exhibited widely, received grants for residencies and been published most recently in AcrylicWorks5 and Studio Visit Magazine. She currently teaches at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her work has been selected to be included in exhibitions by numerous leaders in the art world such as Alan Weinberg, director of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and Clifford Ackley, curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Jean’s paintings have also been juried and chosen by well-known artists such as William Bailey, Judy Chicago, Faith Ringgold and Donald Sultan. Her work is included in many private collections, including the estate of the late Kenneth Noland, a well-known 1960’s color field painter. Jean speaks publicly about her work in relationship to her personal life experiences and faith, which illuminates more thoroughly the unique and powerful meaning embedded in her paintings.

If your church, school, or homeschool group is interested in a tour, please contact Matt Stemler at mstemler@cairn.edu or 215.702.4382.

Cairn University believes that truth, beauty, and goodness find their source in God and that artistic, creative endeavors manifest the divine image in humankind. Because of this, the University Arts Initiative seeks to integrate the creative arts into every student’s experience. In addition to sponsoring an integrated art gallery that exhibits fine art in every major building on campus, the Arts Initiative also hosts visiting artist presentations, supports the Student Visual Arts Society and academic arts courses and programs at Cairn.

Community Art Opportunities & Resources:

Cairn Community Arts AcademyCairn Community Arts Academy

Arts and Cultural Council of Bucks CountyArts & Cultural Council of Bucks County

Philadelphia Museum of ArtPhiladelphia Museum of Art
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Asian Arts InitiativeAsian Arts Initiative
1219 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Christians in the Visual ArtsChristians in the Visual Arts

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