Carol Kessler (1916-2004), an artist and designer, was a resident of San Jose, CA California for over 60 years. She and her husband, Friedolin, had the rare gift of being able jointly and separately build lives centered around the arts, become renowned as artists on their own, and actually both make a living as artists. Although mainly self-taught, Carol trained at Stanford with Anton Refregier. She was also active in art as a profession, co-founding the San Jose Art League with Friedolin Kessler and others.
Carol was native Californian, hailing from Los Gatos, but living most of her life in San Jose. The life and view in California permeates her imagery and her perspective, as did the extensive travels she made with Friedolin Kessler, whom she married in 1941. Her early works in acrylic painting reflected these travels throughout the Southwest and into the Sierra mountains of California. The Kesslers shared a love of traveling, accompanied by an additional partner on their trips for many years – their beloved Siamese cat, Thai, who became a seasoned, if not always happy, traveler.
Carol’s ventures into art included painting with oil and acrylics, experimenting with collage, and adding sand or fabric into her works. She also worked with silk screening and became particularly skilled in this complex and labor-intensive technique. Her passion was her work in fiber arts, a medium in which she was able to create stunning wall hangings and other works, including one-of-a-kind wearable art in the form of vests, blouses, jacket and pants sets, dresses, skirts, and tunics. She frequently worked in raw silk, always dying it by hand, using specialized dye and fabrication techniques (which she perfected but did not share) to create captivating details. Carol was accomplished seamstress, sewing all of her clothes herself, often finishing with hand embroidery to highlight particular areas of her work. As a result of these fiber arts techniques and her fabrication skills, her “wearable arts” clothes were consistently shown in Bay Area art and fashion shows throughout the years.
Carol was also an accomplished and pioneer culinary artist. In keeping with her adventuresome spirit and “hit the road” energy, she studied and became adept at preparing foods from many areas of the world. She paid meticulous attention to the smallest detail of presentation and taste, making her culinary offerings another expression of her artistic sensibility. In this respect, her work with food and fibers put her ahead of her time in creating new forms of artistic expression.