Nothing gets in the way of the art.
Even at 95 years old, retired Grayslake educator Jean Korell continues to paint. This is despite suffering a stroke 20 years ago that affected her ability to speak and write.
Her paintings, along with those of two other noted Grayslake artists, are on display in Behind the Brush: A Celebration of Three Grayslake Artists at the Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum, 164 Hawley St. The exhibit opened on June 16, the same day as Grayslake's annual Art Festival.
The exhibition featuring 23 water colors and two pen and ink drawings comes from the collection of the Grayslake Historical Society, local collectors and the Korell family. It runs through Nov. 3.
The three featured Grayslake artists are Korell, Willadene Nicholas who died in 2007 and Charles Oglesby Longabaugh, whose work has been exhibited nationally and who had a studio in a Grayslake carriage house.
"My work reflects very personal content," Korell said. "The format is evolved revealing a free, wet-in-wet style progressing toward impressionistic and semi-abstract art."
A major attraction to her art work is her combination of watercolor with her handmade paper collage. "It has become an exciting extension of my work," she said.
She stopped making her own paper about five years ago. She is currently painting the Blue Grotto, a cave on the Italian island of Capri.
Dave Oberg, Heritage Center and Museum executive director, said many of Korell's paintings on display are scenes in the Grayslake area. "The colors are wonderful and the textures are wonderful," he said in a recent interview. "I'm totally enamored with her work."
In 1950, Korell and her late husband, Keith, moved to Grayslake where she resumed her teaching career that began in Indiana where she attended Ball State Teachers College and earned her degree from Indiana University. Earlier in her education, she took courses in art and design at Columbia University in New York.
She taught art in the middle school att the Grayslake elementary school. After earning a masters degree in education from Roosevelt University in Chicago, she became vice principal and then principal at Lakeview School in Grayslake.
Her art career didn't end with her retirement in 1980. She discovered the College of Lake County and took courses in poetry and writing, and art classes in pottery, painting and sculpture. In 1984, Korell was among the founders, along with CLC instructor Ed Kanwisher, of the Lakes Region Watercolor Guild.
"Painting with local groups, exhibiting my work at local galleries and cultural centers and participation in workshops...brought me great joy throughout the years," she said.
Her interest in art began in a one-room schoolhouse in Wyoming where her mother was instrumental in bringing art into the classroom, Korell said. In an interview in 1988 with the Grayslake Historical Society, she said she was born in Broadview, Montana and lived there for over 5 years "at which time my family moved to Wyoming after undergoing the rigors of drought, very bad winters and actually losing their farming business."
The family lived in Wyoming for over 5 years also, she told the interviewer. "We lived on a farm. My dad had various kinds of jobs. He worked in a logging camp up in the Little Bighorn Mountains until he developed typhoid fever. Then we moved to an irrigated farm up a canyon in the Little Bighorns on a little creek called Crazy Woman Creek."
When Korell was 11 years old, her parents "decided that life in Wyoming, after living on a dryland farm again and the Teapot Dome oil fields, that life was too difficult out there. My mother's family encouraged our family to come back to Howe, Indiana where we lived for quite a few years."
She graduated from Howe High School and began her art and education classes at Ball State Teachers College. Future Grayslake Historical Society columns will trace the stories of Willadene Nicholas and Charles Oglesby Longabaugh, the other Grayslake artists honored in the exhibit Behind The Brush: A Celebration of Three Grayslake Artists.
The Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum, 164 Hawley St., Grayslake, is open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and during downtown community events.
- Contributed by the Grayslake Historical Society.