Louisville paintress Carol Mcleod met with me for an interview recently and said that she has been painting for her entire life, starting as a child with finger paints.
She was born in Tokyo and also lived in Okinawa, where she painted with an Okinawan professor. She also spent considerable tim in Hawaii, Omaha, and Guam before landing in Kentucky. She says that she took university level classes or mentored with different people wherever she lived, putting together her own "frankenstein" art degree from many influences like Kandinsky. who is one of her favorites.
"I'm a very visual person and I respond to things that trigger my imagination, and that's kind of where I live," she said.
She has been involved in the creation of many murals, including a mural in Eastern Cemetary and a mural in Fumi's Cafe, which won a LEO Reader's Choice Award for public mural. She conceived and co-painted the Hunter S. Thompson mural on the side of the Monkey Wrench, and all three stories of her own home are covered in murals she co-created with friends.
Carol also does abstract canvass paintings. She has painted with oils and pastels before but found that she was too impatient for them, so she prefers to work with acrylics. Her abstract paintings appear very feminine to me due to the rounded shapes and sometimes feminine colors, but she has never seen them that way. She said that it is interesting what different people see in her work. Sometimes she sees it, and sometimes they don't. She had one person say that one of her abstract paintings was scary. It took her a while to figure out what they meant.
"When I do an abstract, I don't usually know what it is for months," said Carol. "They're like a dream. I guess sometimes the subconscious mind is scary to some people."
Her many artistic talents also include portraits and landscapes, although she does them mostly to hone her skills and develop her own style. She says she prefers canvass paintings over murals because it can be very difficult to work with other artists. She likes to be able to crank up the radio, shut the door and get lost in her painting.
Carol is not only a notable painter; she is also a highly involved member of the community. She has been a founding member of two different studios in Louisville: Syncronisity Studios and Highland Arts Studios. Neither are open any longer, but she was awarded the Good Neighbor Award from the Mayor for being a good Highlands Neighbor.
"I thought it was a prank call when they called," she said about the plaque the mayor presented her.
It was no prank. Carol has been of great benefit to her home neighborhood. She has served on the Highlands Art Committee (part of the Highlands Commerce Guild) for the past three years and headed up the Highland Mural Contest, which provided the winner with $1,000 and materials to create a mural on the side of the Wine Market on Lucia and Bardstown Rd.
Although Carol has lived in many places, Louisville is her home. She said her mother was from Kentucky, and this is where they always came home to visit relatives.
Carol's creative endeavors don't stop with painting. She's also dabbled in web design, animations, and graphic design. Her digital arts began as a hobby when she would play with software to create animated dancers.
Her garden shows the touch of a master looking for a new canvass. She was certified a master gardener with the Kentucky Agricultural Extension Office about twelve years ago in Boone County through a program at the University of Kentucky. She works very hard to create the visual appeal of a meadow behind her home. There is no grass; it is all flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees.
Carol's multitude of talents and ambition are impressive enough, but a trial in her life makes her even more inspirational and impressive. She was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1997. It is not foremost in her mind, and most people do not realize she has it. Even her doctor's tell her that she is not normal. She is in great shape, but most people are not in as good a shape after such a long duration after diagnosis. She is still very involved with her family, art, and community. She says her 92-year-old sports car drivin' dad is her main inspiration.
"He's a classy dude," she said.
She's met some really interesting people through the Parkinson's network. The movie Awakenings is about Dr. Oliver Sax, a neurologist that helps people who are comatose and suffer from other neurological disorders. He put together the first creativity exhibit at the first Parkinson's conference in Washington DC; Carol had a painting there.
"I also produced an E-zine for a Parkinson's Disease non-profit for a couple years called Virtuality," said Carol. "I did all the graphics and put it together in Microsoft Publisher.
Her dedication to helping the Parkinson's community was further displayed when she served as the Kentucky Parkinson Action Network and went to Washington DC every year to find out about the latest news and research while lobbying for people with Parkinson's.
It's apparent after knowing Carol for some time and speaking to her in depth about her accomplishments that she will continue to strive for magnificent beauty as long as she is able. She always seems to be leading the way in creative circles and "has a knack for ending up in things like that". It is clear to me that her efforts will continue to ripple out to the world around her, making it a more beautiful place.