JESSE AARON Jesse Aaron Main < BACK

A descendant of slaves and a Seminole Indian grandmother, Jesse Aaron was an imaginative carver dedicated to finding form in wood.

Before he completed the first grade, Aaron's parents removed him from school and "hired him out" to do farm work at seven dollars a month. He served an apprenticeship as a baker when he was twenty-one years old and later opened several bakeshops. He worked as a cook in the Hotel Thomas in Gainesville, Florida from 1933 to 1937, then for various hospitals, fraternites, and the Seaboard System Railroad.

In the early 1930s he built a house for his wife and family in Gaiesville, where he would live for the rest of his life. He owned and operated a nursery, but was forced to sell it in 1968 to pay for a cataract operation for his wife. At eighty-one years old he was unemployed for the first time in his life. After Aaron sold the nursery, according to the artist, "at three o'clock in the morning, July the 5th . . . the Spirit woke me up, and said 'Carve Wood' . . . The Lord give me this gift ad I just goes about . . . trying to please him." He immediately began to carve, placing his finished pieces in his front yard.

He worked to bring out the figures in the wood, including animals, people, faces that he could see in a piece of wood. With a sly humor, an individualistic vision, and very little adornment, he could bring forth human and animal shapes, that, to him already existed. He preferred working with untreated hardwoods, cedar, and Cyprus, "because bugs can't get into it." He roughed out his shapes with a chain saw, then finished the work with hammers, chisels, and other woodcarving tools.

Aaron cast polyester resin and used the castings for eyes and adornments for his figures. He also attached found objects, such as, bone, old pipes, hats to add realism, but he did not paint his carvings. He has been included in many major folk art exhibitions and publications, including Souls Grown Deep by Bill and Paul Arnett.



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