For Jaimee Newman, meeting her boyfriend’s mother for the first time wasn’t terrifying, but instead it was exhilarating.
“We instantly connected—obviously because we’re both artists—and I’ll just never forget that day,” Newman said of Joye Schwartz, her artistic counterpart and mother-in-law.
Upon their first meeting, the connection between Newman of New Jersey and Schwartz of Elkins Park expanded until the two became an established pair of Philadelphia-based artists.
“Jaimee has my paintings in her home and I have her paintings, and it’s a very positive interaction,” Schwartz said.
Their first official art show, “Her. She. We: A Dynamic Exhibition of Love and Family” displays the culmination of their artistic collaborations at the Da Vinci Art Alliance at 7th and Catharine streets. The lineup of still life, landscape, abstract and figure paintings showcase creations that vary from boldly colorful to whimsically wispy.
“We thought that it was somewhat of an unusual situation to have a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law or a mother-daughter, you know being so close as far as artists, yet we’re in the same family,” Schwartz said.
When her son, Jeremy Schwartz, was accepted into Drexel University’s nursing school, his then-girlfriend, Jaimee, moved to Philadelphia with him. The transitional time in her life is explored in the exhibit.
“I just decided it would be the next natural step to cohabitate with one another,” Newman said. “It was the best move of my life and so I’m here, I’m a Philadelphian, and I still have Jersey plates.”
Schwartz experienced life-changing transitions as well. With a master’s degree in audiology and her instructional certification in deaf education, she was forced to quit her science-based job when three of her children contracted chickenpox simultaneously. She began dabbling in art courses, attending the Cheltenham Arts Center and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and teaching students in local high schools.
As a result, Schwartz’s son had been used to spending time around artists when he met his future wife.
“When he met Jaimee, he was very respectful and positive towards Jaimee’s painting,” she said. “And I think a lot of that was because he grew up that way.”
Upon Schwartz and Newman’s first introduction, the pair instantly escalated from discussing art to creating and critiquing it together, text messaging each other images of their finished works.
They painted the same model in dissimilar styles, resulting in two figure paintings that now hang on the walls of the East Passyunk gallery. Despite working and curating closely together, both artists found the collaborative process more natural than challenging.
“The only [challenge] is finding a parking place,” Schwartz said when asked whether or not it was difficult to create an exhibit with her daughter-in-law.
When describing the overall theme of “Her. She. We,” Schwartz extracted themes from “A Room of One’s Own,” an essay by renown author Virginia Woolf. In the piece, Woolf discusses the importance of a woman possessing her own space, stating famously “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
Both mothers, daughters and wives, Schwartz and Newman stressed the significance of a woman owning her own space to create art, whether it be a novel or a painting.
“To give the mother that space of her own, that room of her own so that she has that time. You know, to be herself and to be that other identity,” said Schwartz, who converted her own garage into a home studio.
Both artists also stressed the necessity of support from others—especially family members.
“It’s important to support each other, it’s a way to express yourself, and I think your loved ones and friends need to support each other in doing any kind of creative art,” Schwartz said. “Whether it’s painting, music, whatever. I think it’s really important.”
Angela Gervasi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.