The show, “Carol Jessen’s Watercolor World: A Memorial Show” at Boothbay Region Art Foundation (BRAF) continues through the month of August.
The show features 10 paintings loaned for the exhibition by Janis van Hasselt, Chet Evans, and Jesson’s friend, artist Marcia Annenberg who pulled the show together. There are two prints in the show that are for sale, donated by Susan Brackett and Bob Eisele.
Jessen was a “snowbird.” The St. Louis native spent winters in Appalachicola, Florida and in Boothbay Harbor summers for 40 years, until her death in late July of 2020. Jessen discovered the Boothbay region while attending a watercolor workshop led by the East Boothbay-based artist-author-educator, Judi Wagner.
Annenberg says she and Jessen met at a plein air show opening at BRAF. Both were former educators: Jessen a retired high school English teacher and Annenberg was a middle school art teacher in New York City.
“It’s funny,” recalled Annenberg, “because when she first met me she didn’t want to get to know me – she didn’t like the New York art scene! But we did become friends through the plein air group that paints on Wednesdays. This one time we didn’t like the location the group was going to and Carol suggested we find our own place.
“This became our ritual,” continued Annenberg. “We painted on Wednesdays when she was here for 3-4 years. Afterward we would go to the Lobster Dock for lobster rolls.”
The last time they painted together was the summer of 2019. Jessen was teaching a workshop on Southport beach. “I took it – but brought my oil paints! I never studied landscape painting which is why I started taking her workshops,” Annenberg said. “I think she was a watercolor master; anyone studying watercolor, or painting, should study her work.”
To that end, Jessen’s instructional blog, caroljessen.blogspot.com, is still live today.
Carol Jessen was represented by Gleason Fine Art for a number of years. She met Marty and Dennis Gleason 30 years back when their gallery was in the Brick House on Oak Street.
“Dennis has been asked to jury a BRAF show, and he selected a stunning watercolor by Carol Jessen to feature in the Register write-up. Carol came by to introduce herself and to thank Dennis,” Marty Gleason said. “She was her usual self – buoyant, irrepressible, full of stories and laughter; we liked her immediately.
The Gleasons invited Jessen to show he paintings at their gallery. “Carol’s sense of composition and use of color were superb. Watercolors are deceptively hard to do; they require a light but sure touch. Carol Jessen was a master,” said Marty. “Her paintings sold well at our gallery, but she did even better out in the field.”
Artist Andrea Peters concurred: “Carol rented our cottage for 10 years. She went to Ocean Point and painted out on the rocks and sold many a painting right then and there.”
Peters describes her old friend’s work as “Spontaneous. Colorful. Fluid.”
Jessen, she said, was someone who was always striving to do 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 had told one of her art classes that she was retiring they all got up, stood on their desks and said ‘O Captain, My Captain.’ Just like that scene in that movie … (“Dead Poets Society,” 1989).”
In her blog, “Carol Jessen’s Watercolor World,” Jessen recounts how her journey dramatically changed once she fell ill in late December 2019 while she was in her winter haunt, Apalachia, Florida. She created two paintings. And then became too ill to paint. After two months in hospitals Jessen was released and went back to St. Louis. Annenberg and Jessen kept in touch with the phone until the watercolorist moved back to Boothbay Harbor, St. Andrews, specifically, until her death because, as Annenberg noted, Carol Jessen loved Boothbay Harbor that much.
The watercolors in the show range from a gorgeous yellow group of flowers to an Ocean Point scene, just past Three Trees, after a rain; a single boat at sea in a fog; a very colorful farmer’s market scene; a sketch of a dog named “Boxcar.”
“It was easy to fall for a Carol Jessen watercolor,” Marty Gleason said. “They are so bright, so accomplished. Fortunately for all of us who knew her well, the creative side of Carol lives on through her sparking watercolors.”
The Boothbay Harbor Art Foundation is a 1 Townsend Ave. in Boothbay Harbor. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.