The Joy of Painting at Ghost Fleet Gallery
By Kip Tabb –
It is a rare thing to walk into a room, or gallery, in this case, and know that the art hanging on the walls is something memorable and provocative—a visual celebration to be treasured. That is the feeling that the exhibit of Jesi Pace-Berkeley’s art evokes.
She paints large—huge portraitures, studies of the human body, or faces and themes, all of it done with a broad stroke of color that gives the feeling that she had sketched her work with a watercolor brush.
“I’m a watercolorist,” is how she describes herself. “It’s my medium of choice.”
Her style is distinctive—unlike any other artist–a result of never receiving any formal art training until she went got to college in the 1970s according to her. “I came from a very small town in Virginia. Shawsville,” she says. “We didn’t have any art classes. I went to Virginia Tech and they gave us computer cards and told us to punch out our major. I punched in art.”
She ended up being the number one student in her graduating class, but her technique was and still is unique. Here is how she describes her style: “I don’t know how to paint. I just draw.”
Using broad strokes as she creates her art, she combines colors in ways and styles that are atypical for watercolors. Colors and hues are apparent yet subtle. “The joy of painting for me is mixing all those colors,” she says. “Skin has a lot of color in it,” she adds.
Although in some of her work color fills every part of the paper, other works bring the eyes to the subject with a field of neutral white. The colors, even in her darker colored paintings seem vibrant and alive.
Her work is part of museum collections and is often sought by private collectors, yet she defines herself is simpler terms. “I always taught,” she said. “I just retired from teaching after 32 years.”
Her connection with the Outer Banks came about because of her teaching career. John Tucker, Chair of the Don and Catharine Bryan Cultural Series, was the head master of the Norfolk Academy in the 1980 when Jesi was teaching there. “I bought two of her paintings,” he said. “I stayed in touch with her after she went back to Blackburg to teach. Her work has just gotten better and better.”
One of the stipulations of the Bryan Cultural Series is to bring artists if from outside the Outer Banks and have them go to area schools. Knowing that Jesi had retired, the combination of her work and teaching skills seemed like a natural fit.
Sponsored by the Don and Catharine Bryan Cultural Series, the show will run until Friday, January 23.