Brush with Art: Artist’s message lives on through visual narratives

Brush with Art: Artist’s message lives on through visual narratives
Jen Trute’s “Sunbathe Barbie at Bombay Beach” depicts the iconic doll sunbathing in a desert of decay and devastation, unconscious of the endangered plants and animals that surround her. As part of the California Dreaming Exhibition, the original painting will be on display in Italy for the month of October 2014. (Photo courtesy of the Batt Family Trust)

Jen Trute (1960 – 2011), recognized for her environmentally conscious surreal paintings, had a brief but brilliant career as a fine artist as she increased awareness of the earth’s changing ecology. With technical mastery reminiscent of the Old Masters, she created superbly detailed and darkly humorous admonitions regarding the state of our society and the environment.

Due to the labor-intensive nature of her process, Trute’s entire body of work consisted of a mere 35 artworks at the end of her lifetime. Most were created during her decade-long battle with cancer, to which she succumbed in 2011 at age 51.

Trute’s work was featured in a retrospective solo exhibition at Oceanside Museum of Art in early 2013.

According to OMA’s Executive Director Daniel Foster, “Trute was one of Oceanside’s most talented artists of all time, and was certainly deserving of applause and acclaim from national and international audiences because of her talent and a focus on content that is important to people of all ages addressing critical issues facing our global context.”

Foster adds, “It was a very sad loss to our arts community when Trute passed away several years ago prematurely… but her spirit lives and breathes strong through her amazing body of art and paintings.”

Enthusiasts of her work and advocates for the environment will have an opportunity to view Trute’s extraordinary paintings at L Street Fine Art from July 31 through Oct. 8.

Tom Noel and Larry Baza, who hosted a memorial exhibition of her work at Noel-Baza gallery just weeks after her passing, said of Trute, “She was one of the most thoughtful, committed and technically advanced artists we have ever shown. Jen was at the forefront of a growing group of artists doing their best, using their skills and imaginations to bring awareness to what may prove to be the most important battle our species will ever face.”

Synergy Art Foundation’s executive director Naomi Nussbaum comments, “Jen was way ahead of her time. She saw and expressed through her painting man’s devastation of nature and its repercussions. Her subject matter was often unpalatable but a brilliant depiction of her vision of the results of our irresponsibility and abuse of our environment.”

Trute came relatively late to fine art, having spent her early adult years as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator.

Born in Springfield, Mass., she attended Massachusetts College of Art in Boston majoring in painting and graphic design. She freelanced as a graphic designer and illustrator prior to specializing in storyboard and advertising illustration for ad agencies in major markets across the country. Only after relocating to Southern California in the mid-1990s did she begin her serious pursuit of fine art.

It has been said that Trute was devoted and meticulous in her craft to the point of obsession. Her art was enriched by her voracious fascination with issues such as human impact on our fragile ecosystem.

San Diego Visual Arts Network coordinator Patricia Frischer notes, “Her paintings might look zany and colorful, but like Jen herself, there is a quiet and powerful message behind them.”

Trute’s story would not be complete without mention of her relationship with companion and fellow artist Dennis Paul Batt, who for a decade was the principal champion of her work. Upon her death, Trute bequeathed her entire body of work to Batt as custodian of her legacy. However, as the result of his untimely death a mere six months after hers, the ownership of Trute’s entire body of work passed to Batt’s mother. Since that time, Zelda Batt and her daughter Laurie Aker have been eager to share Trute’s compelling legacy with the world.

During the exhibition of Jen Trute’s original oil paintings at L Street Fine Art, one of her most popular paintings titled “Sunbathe Barbie at Bombay Beach” will be represented by a giclée print. For the month of October 2014, the original painting will be traveling with Oceanside Museum of Art’s California Dreaming exhibition to Italy’s Palazzo della Provincia di Frosinone, where Trute’s painting will make its international debut.

Trute’s message of the urgent need for environmental responsibility will live on through her art, both locally and abroad.

Jen Trute’s Enviroscapes will be on display at L Street Fine Art from July 31 through Oct. 8. The public is invited to attend an opening reception Aug. 9, 6 to 9 p.m.

Kay Colvin is director of L Street Fine Art Gallery in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, and specializes in promoting emerging and mid-career artists. Contact her at


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