Mrs. Jean Henriksen is an accomplished artist who loves the land. Working from her home with oils and palette knives, she paints realistic three-dimensional landscapes – from memory. Most are of her favorite Florida sites, and many depict areas that vanished long ago.
Jean has researched her work in every nook and cranny of the state. She enjoyed painting south Florida ocean scenes near her home in the 1950s, and was a rare outsider allowed inside Miccosukee and Seminole villages. She and her husband moved to Tallahassee in 1976 to refine her primary artistic focus – Florida’s freshwater springs.
Still actively painting today, Jean completed a series of 14 paintings on an old Georgia plantation north of Tallahassee.
“As long as I can walk, and my hand stays steady, I will paint,” she laughed.
The artist has painted more springs around Florida than Conservancy freshwater staff scientists had even heard of. She shares fabulous stories of her experiences among them.
To locate the most beautiful sites, she often asked locals where they swam. She was once rebuffed from a site by an angry shotgun-wielding property owner. Another made his defensive stand in front of a shack covered with rattlesnake skins – each with a clean bullet hole.
When Jean’s beloved Peacock Springs was slated to be developed and surrounded by condos, she introduced its owners to the Conservancy and even helped acquire grant money for its protection. The Live Oak-area property was ultimately preserved and is now a popular state park.
Two important exhibitions of her work have influenced public opinion on conservation. At a 1973 exhibit in Miami, Jean was quoted as saying that she had “become aware of Florida’s environmental problems by sleeping in a quiet place, only to be awakened by the sound of the buzz saw cutting down a century-old forest.”
“Through my paintings, I am trying to inform you of some of the ways land was, is and can be preserved,” Jean continued. “In the future, the efforts of all Floridians will be needed to continue the preservation of Florida.”
That future is now.
At a second showing in the Florida Capitol Building, Jean invited the public to explore Florida’s wilderness waterways with her. Sixty-five paintings delivered her message about the rivers, runs and springs of the Floridan Aquifer in a way that words cannot accomplish.
Several of Jean’s paintings have now hung in the Capitol for almost 30 years. Sometimes she would quietly replace a painting in Gov. Bob Graham’s office with one of an area she felt was more in need of protection.
“The Conservancy is the only group except the state government that really protects the land,” said Mrs. Henriksen. “Conservation problems are not just here in Florida, but worldwide."
Passionate about both the land and animals, Jean shares Conservancy values. She has been a member (become a member) for 27 years, and graciously named the Conservancy in her will in 2008.September 13, 2011