Carol Jessen’s Watercolor World: A Memorial Show at Boothbay Region Art Foundation (BRAF) runs throughout the month of August.
The exhibition features 10 paintings loaned for the exhibition by Janis van Hasselt, Chet Evans and Jesson’s friend, the artist Marcia Annenberg, who put the exhibition together. There are two prints in the exhibition that are for sale, donated by Susan Brackett and Bob Eisele.
Jessen was a “snowbird”. A native of St. Louis, she spent 40 years in Appalachicola, Florida and summers in Boothbay Harbor until her death in late July 2020. Jessen discovered the Boothbay area while attending a watercolor workshop given by East Boothbay-based artist and author educator, Judi Wagner.
Annenberg says she and Jessen met at a plein air show opening at BRAF. Both were former educators: Jessen was a retired high school English teacher and Annenberg was a middle school art teacher in New York City.
“It’s funny,” Annenberg recalls, “because when she first met me, she didn’t want to meet me—she didn’t like the New York art scene! But we became friends through the open-air group that paints on Wednesdays. This time we didn’t like the place the group wanted to go and Carol suggested we find our own place.
“It became our ritual,” Annenberg continues. “We painted on Wednesdays when she was here for 3-4 years. After that we went to the Lobster Dock for lobster rolls.”
The last time they painted together was in the summer of 2019. Jessen was giving a workshop on Southport Beach. “I took it – but brought my oil paints! I never studied landscape painting, so I started attending her workshops,” said Annenberg. “I think she was a watercolor master; Anyone studying watercolor or painting should study their work.”
To that end, Jessen’s instructional blog, caroljessen.blogspot.com, is still active today.
Carol Jessen was represented by Gleason Fine Art for several years. She met Marty and Dennis Gleason 30 years ago when their gallery was in the Brick House on Oak Street.
“Dennis has been asked to form a jury for a BRAF show and he has selected a stunning watercolor by Carol Jessen to include in the Register report. Carol stopped by to introduce herself and thank Dennis,” said Marty Gleason. “She was her usual self – vivacious, irrepressible, full of stories and laughter; we liked her immediately.
The Gleasons invited Jessen to show his paintings in their gallery. “Carol’s sense of composition and use of color was outstanding. Watercolors are deceptively difficult to do; They require a light but sure touch. Carol Jessen was a master,” said Marty. “Her paintings sold well in our gallery, but she did even better out in the field.”
Artist Andrea Peters agreed: “Carol rented our cottage for ten years. She went to Ocean Point and painted on the rocks and sold many paintings on the spot.”
Peters describes her old friend’s work as “Spontaneous. Multicoloured. liquid.”
Jessen, she said, is someone who always strives to be better or more. “And she loved teaching. No matter where she was or who she was with, Carol was very generous with her knowledge. She was a teacher and she loved it. She loved her students and they loved her. After Carol told one of her art classes that she was retiring, they all got up and stood on their tables and said, ‘Oh Captain, my Captain.’ Just like that scene in that movie… (“Dead Poets Society,” 1989).”
On her blog, Carol Jessen’s Watercolor World, Jessen shares how her journey changed dramatically when she fell ill in late December 2019 while at her winter home in Apalachia, Florida. She created two paintings. And then got too sick to paint. After two months in hospitals, Jessen was released and went back to St. Louis. Annenberg and Jessen kept in touch over the phone until the watercolor artist moved back to Boothbay Harbor, St. Andrews, particularly up until her death because, as Annenberg noted, Carol Jessen loved Boothbay Harbor so much.
The watercolors in the show range from a beautiful group of yellow flowers to a scene at Ocean Point, just past Three Trees, after a rain; a lone boat at sea in the fog; a very colorful farmers market scene; a sketch of a dog named “Boxcar”.
“It was easy to fall in love with a Carol Jessen watercolor,” said Marty Gleason. “You are so smart, so accomplished. Luckily for all of us who knew her well, Carol’s creative side lives on through her sparkling watercolors.”
The Boothbay Harbor Art Foundation is a 1 Townsend Ave. at Boothbay Harbour. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m