Growing up in a small town in Canada I lived a protected life filled with honor and respect by the community. Though I was a shy child my parents, by example, equipped me with a voice (though quiet as I was) to stand up for myself. Many years later living in Piedmont Ca. married and still shy, my husband (at the time) insisted that I needed to get out and find gallery representation.
Difficult as it was for me to make the first appointment, I did just that with a (what I thought was a ) well respected gallery in San Francisco in 1978. I presented my work, which included several portraits. The owner of the gallery (who shall remain nameless) expressed his admiration for my talent and invited me to lunch.
To this day I am appalled by not only the term Stable...but mostly by the fact that I believed what this man was saying. I said I would contact him later that day thinking I had to answer his vile demand.
I actually thought I had to respond to this disgusting man because I felt like he was speaking for all gallery owners in the city and to get a show I would have to be part of the galleries "Stable."
My second blow that day was coming home to my husband . We were having problems in the marriage because he was overwhelming dominant and aggressive and I was beginning to realize this may not be the right person for me. When I told my husband what this man said to me he immediately said " So what did you do to make him say this."
He blamed me!
I was in shock and at that very moment I realized beyond a doubt that I was married to the wrong man and the gallery owner was a creep and disgusting pervert.
I kept quiet about this incident like several other events in my life as a young girl because that was what we were taught to do. Nice girls maintain their divinity and keep these stories to themselves. Only close female friends and artists heard the story over the years as a warning but when I started hearing people speak up about their "me too moments" I felt compelled to share my story because it happens everywhere including the Art World.
I went on to have a show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and painted 25 Well Known Personalities including Maya Angelou and Dianne Feinstein. (one of the celebrities chased me around his office trying to kiss me and I took the photo of him and ran for my life never telling anyone who he was) .
In 1984 I made the decision to open my own gallery because I felt I could best represent myself and other artists due to the fact that I knew what it took to be an artist and I also had business sense watching my father as a child.
I made a promise to myself when I began representing other artists in the Jessel Gallery. When an artist would present their work to me I always treated them with the utmost respect (no matter how I felt about the art). I would tell the truth about their work and honor their willingness to be vulnerable and share their art. My goal to this day is to support and uplift the artists I represent and anyone who shows me their work. I hope that the Jessel Gallery continues to support and embrace the creative soul in all of us.
Here is my advice to anyone seeking a job or representation in a business or gallery. I recommend that my artists no matter their age go into a gallery first and see how you are treated as if you were a possible buyer. If you like how the staff talks to you and approaches you then take a card call later with a request as to how to submit your work. If you are dismissed by the staff or feel disrespected in any way...this is an example of the core ethics of this business and it will only get worse as you get closer to the top or boss of the business. Turn and consider yourself lucky when you walk away from this kind of energy. There are hundreds of wonderful galleries and businesses in this country who respect their artists and employees. "Water seeks its own level"
(Watch for the upcoming "From the HeART Benefit" supporting the Artists who lost everything in the recent Napa Valley Wildfires)