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 Jessie Aaron  (1887 - 1979)

About: Jessie Aaron


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Lived/Active: Florida      Known for: naive wood carving

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BIOGRAPHY for Jessie Aaron
1887 (Lake City, Florida)
1979 (Gainsville, Florida)


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naive wood carving

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Lake City, Florida, Jessie Aaron was a folk art wood carver whose subjects were animals, people and faces. He lived his entire life in Florida, primarily in Gainsville. Of mixed white, black, and Seminole Indian ancestry, he was one of eleven children. He left school before finishing the first grade to support his family. He worked as farm laborer, baker and cook in the Hotel Thomas in Gainesville from 1933 to 1937 and then worked in hospitals, university fraternities and for the Seaboard System Railroad. In his middle 70s, he was forced to sell his nursery business to finance his wife's cataract surgery.

He attributes his decade-long wood carving career to the answer he got to a prayer for guidance. "...the Spirit woke me up and said, 'Carve Wood.'

His technique was rough and simple. He roughed out the forms with a chain saw and finished with chisels, knives and drills. He preferred working with untreated hardwoods, cedar and cyprus because "bugs can't get into it." He also used found objects such as bits of bone, hats, etc., and cast with polyester resin.

In 1975, Jessie Aaron received a Visual Arts Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Chuck and Jan Rosenak, "Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artists"

Biography from Epstein/Powell American Primitives Gallery:
Part black, part Cherokee Indian, Jessie Aaron at age 81 was looking for work. Of this situation, he said: "In 1968 three o''clock in the morning, July the fifth, the Spirit woke me and said one time 'Carve wood'."

His preferred woods were cedar and cypress for their insect-resistant qualities.

His work has been exhibited at the University of Gainesville; the Junior Museum, Tallahassee; and the Florida School of the Arts, Palatka, Florida.

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