MOUNT DESERT ISLAND – Joellyn Toler Duesberry, age 72, died at her home in Greenwood Village, Colo., on Aug. 5, 2016, of pancreatic cancer. Born and brought up in Richmond, Va., she eventually matriculated to Smith College, graduating in 1966, with highest honors. En route to her career as a landscape painter, she acquired a master’s degree from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.
Joellyn Duesberry’s ties to Maine began in Acadia with its lily ponds, forests, bogs, hills, gorges, and creeks. These have always been the subjects Joellyn Duesberry wished to capture in her own peculiar fashion of painterly abstraction, which consistently revived her with a visual jolt every year. Over the years, “Joly” bicycled, hiked, walked everywhere on Mount Desert, Big Cranberry, Schoodic Point and as skill and confidence emerged, shock of Maine’s beauty never failed to accelerate her productivity, identifying with all its waters and hard rocks.
A New Yorker transplanted to a Colorado farm with an NEA grant of 1986, Joellyn Duesberry fed her abstract language with the jolt of the geometry and abstraction she rediscovered in Maine, whether the subject be the red rock flats of Schoodic, the tide at Thunder Hole, the crashing sea at Wonderland, or the angular patterns above and below the windless water in Hall Quarry. Because she was a completely self-taught artist, except for a month in 1986, with Richard Diebenkorn, Joellyn Duesberry was aware there was no influence on her whatsoever. Rather her instinctual search of the Maine coastal landscape in the past five decades for subjects en plein air relating to aesthetic elements fascinated her, giving Duesberry peak experiences unattainable anywhere else.
Many exhibitions followed her development as a painter. In addition to being represented by The Gallery at Somes Sound, her work resides in museums in New York, Virginia, California, Denver Art Museum and others in Colorado, and innumerable private collections.
A retrospective show of Joellyn Duesberry’s Maine collection of work will be featured in July of 2017 at The Gallery at Somes Sound.
Besides her husband, she leaves behind her sister Pat Washko, stepdaughters Rebekah Kowal (David Bullwinkle) and Jessica Kowal (Blaine Harden) and grandchildren Lucinda and Arno Harden and Noah and Isaac Bullwinkle. A memorial service will be planned in the future. Contributions in Joellyn’s name to Compassion & Choices, an organization Joly strongly believed in, would be welcome.