Newcomb's voice still catches in her throat when she describes that night in 1992. She had packed all of her work into a truck outside a warehouse in Chester, in preparation for an art show. In the night, vandals tried to open the truck and failed, Newcomb says, so "they punched a hole in the side and threw in a flare and just set the whole entire truck on fire."
When Newcomb arrived she jumped into the truck, ignoring the warnings of firefighters, and started sifting through the charrred ruins. Only one piece had escaped, albeit slightly scorched the one she had named "Just Waiting."
The painting had survived for a reason, Newcomb decided. In 1995, she chose to donate all the proceeds from its print sales to the local Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
The painting depicts a friend's young daughter whose father died before she was born, from a heart attack while surfing. Like the young girl staring out to sea, Newcomb says, the Make-A-Wish children are "all just waiting for that special thing that they want, or their cure or whatever. They're all just waiting."
Karen E. Webb, president and chief executive of the local Make-A-Wish Foundation, says the sale of prints has raised more than $22,000, enough to pay for at least 14 children's wishes. The print sent one boy fly fishing on the San Juan River, gave one girl a horse and provided other children with playhouses, computers and trips to Disney World.
"People have asked me to sell the original and I never would do it," Newcomb says. But for the last two years, Webb says, "she kept saying, 'It's almost time to do this. It's almost time to do this.'"
Now Newcomb is parting with the piece, to the delight of Webb and the foundation. It plans a tribute to Newcomb at its Oct. 30 fund-raising auction at the Virginia Historical Society. Webb hopes the sale of "Just Waiting" and other pieces by locally and nationally known artists, as well as vacation packages and other items, will make at least five more wishes come true. Melissa Scott Sinclair
For more information on the auction, call (804) 267-1999.
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