Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Me Too?

Me too.

I was sexually assaulted by my high school art teacher.

It's taken 40 years to admit that to myself or anyone else, to say it out loud. To call it assault. To accept that I was manipulated in the worst, most selfish way possible by a man three times my age. And even now, the memory of that time is complicated. Because of that experience, for most of my adult life, art has been a double-edged sword; torturous and joyful.

Making art is all I ever wanted to do.

As a child, the sense of pure pleasure from drawing images on paper is one of my earliest memories. In a time when parents didn't often spend hard earned money on art supplies for small children, I coveted those pieces of white cardboard that came with my Father's new dress shirts. My Mother would tear open the packages, hand me the blank white paper with rounded corners, so filled with possibility, and I would find photos of people and animals to draw with a number two pencil. By grade school I was quite good for my age, always the class artist, winning art awards and contests, and enjoying both the process and the attention it brought.

By high school, art was what defined me. I could no more not draw and paint
than I could not breathe. It was like oxygen. When the chance came along to spend half my day studying Commercial Art at the technical school adjacent to the high school, I jumped at it.

My art teacher was a charismatic man in his late 40's, beloved by most of his students and respected in the community. And owing to my artistic ability (or so I assumed) I pretty quickly became a cliche; the other kids called me "teacher's pet".

Courted (today, we'd call it "groomed") by this man I so admired, he approached me on the first day of my junior year with the proposition that our relationship become "something more." If it didn't, he said, he would resign his teaching position. He couldn't bear to see me every day, and "not have me". If he stayed, he "WOULD have me". Pretty heady stuff for a girl who'd just turned sixteen. Flattered and terrified, I remember shaking uncontrollably for most of that morning at school - teeth chattering, trembling. And I remember him laughing and saying I was probably in shock. 

What followed was a two-and-a-half-year Svengali like relationship where making art became hopelessly tangled up in this new personal relationship. He mentored and encouraged me, and before long I was no longer making art for the pleasure of the process, or the sense of achievement it gave, but for his approval, his attention. It - and he - became all consuming. With the excuse of doing photo shoots, or working on community art projects, we spent a lot of time together outside of school, which involved increasing physical intimacy. On one occasion when things were progressing far too fast, I stopped him, saying I didn't think I was ready yet; not in that setting, not there, not then. His reaction was a mix of hurt and anger, and the expectation that I should be grateful he didn't force me, because he was "a gentleman". It was my first experience with a man feeling entitled to a woman's body, and while I thought his irritation was unfair, it worked. I actually felt bad. 

One evening during my senior year, after we'd both consumed several glasses of scotch at a local bar, he pulled the car over on a deserted road, and I gave in. The rest of the year was filled with drama and deception. While my classmates were going to football games and prom, I was going to dark restaurants and motels with a man 32 years my senior. In my teenage naïveté and inexperience, I found it romantic and dangerous and exciting. And he knew how to play that. The control he had over me was absolute. I would have willingly and happily walked into a burning building had he asked me.

Soon after graduation,
everything came crashing down. Faced with warnings from several sources, including school administrators who could no longer ignore the situation (some of whom had known all along, reacting initially with an envious nudge-wink, and a cautionary "be careful"), he ended it. Feeling very much the fool, and unable to face the thought of life in the same small town as this man, I moved 3000 miles away.

It was many years before I picked up a pencil or paintbrush again.

I fell in love with a good man, married him, had a child, and threw myself into home and family. Years passed - I worked a few part time jobs, and eventually found a job doing crystal engraving. It was enough like making art to make me want more. College enrollment followed, and I began taking art electives. I'll never forget the moment in a well-known watercolorist's life drawing class when I thought, "Yes! This is it! I remember this now!"  

Making art felt good again. And it didn't hurt when this new teacher, someone I respected and whose work and process I greatly admired (and still do), quietly told me one day as we all drew from the model, "You have talent. You can go as far as you want with this." I'm sure he had no idea how much those words of encouragement meant. I'm happy to say that while I haven't gone nearly as far as I'd like, I haven't looked back. 

More classes followed, more art related jobs, more drawing, more painting, just – moreI was back at that point where I wanted to absorb it all, soak it all in. The best way to describe the process is like awakening from a very deep sleep, or rising to the surface after years underwater. And today, I make a very modest, if uncertain, living as a contemporary folk artist.

I'm sure a therapist could have a field day with all this, but to be honest, I prefer the therapy the creative process provides. Art is a long-lost friend with whom I've been reunited. It listens. It heals old wounds. It's my happiness, my refuge, my solace, my prayer, and my hope for the future. 

With that rather complicated back story, here's my small contribution to the "Me Too" movement. It was cathartic and empowering to paint. The message is presented in different languages, because sexual assault is universal. There is a crowd of women, because solidarity matters. The sunrise represents hope. And I chose to use a photo of a dear friend's 11 year old daughter as reference; a child who, like my own, I care a great deal about. A child who I hope and pray will never in her life have to say "me too".

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Michigan Bound!

Today is the final day of prep and packing for Saturday's Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween show, up in Chelsea, Michigan this Saturday... And true to form, I've been doing little else but painting, so those pesky other details have been left to the last minute. ;)

Enter help, in the form of a couple of dear friends, and daughter Courtney, who is on her way as I type this (yay for surprises from thoughtful kids, right?)...

In the meantime, I'm trying to contain my excitement. This show is the new incarnation of the always amazing Ghoultide Gathering, and it's the first time I've been able to attend/exhibit in person since 2014, so I'm absolutely over the moon about seeing old friends, and meeting new ones.

I'm also super excited about the collection of work I'll be sharing, so here's a little peek at a couple of the larger pieces...

"Danse Macabre" includes a hand painted music stand, painted violin, and a 1929 copy of the sheet music for the title piece...

"Ghost Stories" is an original acrylic painting on a framed, wood panel. Reminiscent of childhood Halloweens and camping out in the backyard or woods, it's one of my favorites, and is already available in prints (click here)....

There are plenty of other goodies too - trinket and treasure boxes, signs, paintings, treat bowls, ornaments... If you're withing striking distance, please do visit in person! My favorite part of the show is meeting fellow Halloween lovers and collectors!

OK, back to work now... There are paintings to finish and a car to load. It won't be long now...

Hope to see you soon!

♥ Carolee

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"Trick or Treat!"

I'm not quite sure how in sixteen years of painting Halloween art, I've never painted a full size treat bucket, or painted a full size piece of gourd art, but I think it's high time. ;)

This original, one of a kind piece brings back fond memories of childhood Halloweens, when we'd set out at twilight, treat buckets in hand, anticipating the best candy haul EVER. ;)

 You can't really see them in these photos, but there's a dog and cat marching along with the kids too...

Hand painted in acrylics, on a natural gourd, with twisted wire hanger attached, and finished with a clear, acrylic varnish, this piece measures 10" in diameter at the widest point x 5 1/2" tall.

It will be available on tomorrow night's EHAG Emporium (as always, on a first-to-email basis)...

Thanks so much for visiting, and do feel free to comment or email with any questions. :)

♥ Carolee

Sunday, August 6, 2017

On Reclaiming Our Time

A few months ago, inspired by Elizabeth Warren, I created a piece which made me feel as though, after a truly hellish year, I too could persist. I am grateful that it seemed to resonate with people, and that (in addition to a dear friend capturing the original), prints of this work have now gone to live all over the world.

Fast forward to last week when I saw the now famous clip of Rep. Maxine Waters questioning the Treasury Secretary, and receiving a response that I think was best described as "every work meeting for women, ever". Ms. Waters repeatedly reclaimed her time, and in so doing, inspired me (and I'm sure many others) all over again.

As women, time is probably our most precious commodity, and we all know the frustration of having it wasted. So this piece, "Reclaiming My Time" is filled with positive, feminist affirmations, and is for every woman who has ever endured mansplaining, condescension, and just plain being ignored.

It was empowering to paint, and I hope others find it empowering to hang in homes and offices, or to gift to daughters and friends. 

As of typing this, both the original and prints are available in the Etsy shop. ♥

Thanks for taking a peek, and I'll be back very soon with new work, and details about an exciting new show!

Artful Blessings,
♥ Carolee

Friday, June 30, 2017

FREE Candy ("Eeeek!")

Just popping in to share this month's EHAG Emporium offering....

Measuring 5 1/8" x 5 1/8" x 3 1/4", this hand painted wooden "treat" box, actually holds a different sort of surprise - the eight legged kind, hehe!

Fun for kids, grandkids, or just plain BIG kids, just set it out and watch the fun. ;)

Acrylic on a birch wood box, with a clear, acrylic varnish.
$115 + $8 US shipping. To purchase, shoot me an email at

Thanks for taking a peek at my work, and I'll be back soon with more goodies. :)

~ Carolee

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"We Shall Be Knit Together"

As many of you know, the last year has been a rough one.

It's been a year of finding my footing again after experiencing a devastating loss. A year of navigating a world without my best friend and life partner. A year of profound change.

Through it all (and through much of the preceding time during his illness), one constant source of support and comfort has been that of friends - in particular, the group with whom I gather every Thursday evening at The Lancaster Yarn Shop, in the words of shop proprietor and all around Yarn Whisperer, Wendy Ellis, to "knit and natter"...

From the beginning, sharing nothing more than a love for this beautiful hand work we do, these women welcomed me, as they have countless others.

We're a diverse group - some young, some middle aged, some older. Some mommies, some not. Some financially comfortable, some struggling. Some heavy, some thin. Some working outside the home, some not, some retired. Some liberal, some conservative. But we have this love of knitting in common. It stitches us together as surely as the projects on our needles are stitched.

In a world of crazy schedules and electronic communication, these Thursday nights provide grounding, and a real connection. As it has been throughout history, knitting together is an act of friendship and community. It's done in a space devoid of judgement or criticism, where we can be ourselves, and receive encouragement. A place of safety and support.

I wanted to do something to honor this, and the painting above is the result. Some of the women are loosely based on the women in my group (some more than others, lol), and some are not. The scene in the background is loosely based on The Lancaster Yarn Shop, in Intercourse, PA - but perhaps also your own LYS (local yarn shop?)

I'm thrilled and honored that the original will hang there in the shop - my happy place and home away from home. :)

And if you'd like to give it a place in your own home, prints are now available in the Etsy shop. The printer will drop-ship in the US and Canada, which saves a bit of time (European orders may take a little longer, as they have to come here first).

Thanks so much for taking a peek at my latest work, and please do leave a comment. I'll be back very soon with another piece to share.

In the meantime, be well, and keep knitting. ;)

♥ Carolee

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Prints Available!

Prints are now available. Click HERE. :)

Thanks for your support, your kind comments, and your shares crediting me with the original work.

♥ Carolee

Sunday, February 19, 2017

"Nevertheless, She Persisted"

A rallying cry if ever we heard one, eh? ;)

It's been a rough couple of months since my last post, both personally and well, globally...

Like many, I've been alternating between shock and heartbreak for the insanity that seems to have taken over our country on so many levels, and I've been spending time doing as the late Carrie Fisher said, by taking my broken heart and making it into art...

I began in December by knitting several pussyhats to donate to women participating in the March on Washington, and have been gathering with others determined to resist, making posters, making calls, sending emails, postcards and so on...Then as soon as we all heard about Elizabeth Warren being silenced on the Senate floor - and the words spoken by the man who silenced her - it was inspiration for a piece of art.

I called on women friends (via Facebook) to share their own stories about every "warning", and every "explanation" they'd ever heard, from childhood on up. The idea was to make this "our" piece - something to which every woman could contribute and relate. Something universal and empowering. Something for the Resistance. 

So here it is, a 10" x 20" canvas, done in acrylic and micron pen.

It was cathartic, and maybe even a little empowering to paint, and if it inspires one women, or one young girl to persist - and resist - the patriarchy, it will have done its job.

As of typing this, the piece is available in my Etsy shop.

Finally, "Never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.” ~ HRC

Until next time, stay strong, and #resist

♥ Carolee