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Behind the Book: Mary Carroll Nelson, A Portrait of a Barnard College ’50 Fine Arts Alumna

I’m pleased to mark the beginning of a new blog post series on the historical background of Before the Flood, and we’re starting off with Lydia’s artistic background at Barnard College, one of the Seven Sisters colleges of the Northeast.

Someone asked me if Lydia is based upon a real historical figure, and the answer is no. Lydia is a completely a fictional character that is my brainchild, yet I draw influences from historical figures and real people of the time.  I researched the lives of Barnard College women through archives of the Barnard College Bulletin, then a weekly student newspaper, and the Barnard Mortarboard, the college yearbook. I then poured over the work and biographies of mid-century female artists to help sculpt the portrait of a young artist at the beginning of her career.

Lydia entered university in a time when a college education a privilege and not as accessible as we know of it today. The women of her class knew they were daughters of fortune. From Convocation in 1946 with Dean Helen Gildersleeve (a powerhouse and great advocate for the international exchange of ideas) to their Commencement in 1950 with Dean Millicent Carey McIntosh, these women were “expected to be adults, and expected to change the world.” They knew from their first days at Barnard that they  had a great responsibility to use their knowledge and background to impact not just themselves, but their communities and the world around them. It emboldened them to lead lives that distinguished between artifice and reality. (6). It’s these qualities that will mold Lydie for the rest of her life.

Getting to know these ladies through research and their biographies led me to want to discover what achievements they made, especially Lydia’s fine arts sisters at Barnard. This led me to Mary Carroll Nelson, one of the surviving class members of the Class of 1950. Call it intuition or fate or what have you, but it drew me to her.  Recently after viewing some of her artwork at Weyrich Gallery in her adopted home of Albuquerque, New Mexico of many years, I contacted Mary and that led to a lovely correspondence that I’m privileged to share.  More about my visit to Weyrich later in this post.

Just who is Mary Carroll Nelson, how do you put such a life into words? Her accomplishments are many. She’s a celebrated Marquis Who’s Who Lifetime Achiever. She’s been listed in Who’s Who of America, Who’s Who of the West, and Who’s Who of American Women. She’s also the founder of the Society of Layerists in Multi-Media  (http://www.slmm.org)  and a respected artist, panelist, teacher, and author.

But who was Mary in college, and how did Barnard impact her world as an artist and a person?  Well, she was someone I definitely wanted to know. She stayed up late to study and took the bottom bunk in her dorm room so her roommate could to go to bed early. She noted that campus was rather ugly at the time and her recollections of her dorm Brooks Hall,  “when I arrived to move into Brooks Hall the rooms were truly ugly.  A double-decker bed bought as war surplus from the Navy was the first thing I saw.  A little basin, a pair of low dressers, and a middle room with desks for four, and a third room where two juniors were living.  I and my roommate were their wards for the first year.  In a while, we had made the room our own, more personal and with some color here and there. (1)”

She also wrote in her correspondence that she looks back on Barnard with gratitude. Her “fine arts education there has nourished my lifelong commitment to art, as student, collector, admirer, and artist.  It is how I view history.  The rest of the required curriculum was widely dispersed and provided a background for understanding the origins of things, ideas, places, and events.”

Her career piqued my interest because like Lydie,  their paths post graduation are similar: both became elementary school teachers and art teachers and both married within the same year they graduated from Barnard.

Born in Bryan, Texas, to James Vincent and Mary Elizabeth Carroll, Mary Carroll Nelson married Edwin Blakely Nelson, a West Point graduate and physicist in 1950, the same year she earned a BA in Fine Arts from Barnard College. Her mother was also an alumna of Barnard, class of 1923. She raised two children before returning to earn her M.A. in art education  at the University of New Mexico in 1963, and further education in 1969- 1970. Her accomplishments as a panelist, juror, co-ordinator, author and artists are lengthy. For a more detailed catalogue of her achievements, please visit  Marquis Top Artists Who’s Who and Mary’s website.

What drew me to her was her views on originality and style. On originality, Mary Carroll Nelson states that:  “The actual breakthrough in the privacy of the studio, when one dares to apply paint in a new manner, is a solitary thrill, dependent upon no one else.”  One of Lydie’s opening statements in Before The Flood as she stands in her studio, her most sacred space, Lydie transforms from a place of doubt and fear into wholeness.  It’s a place where she comes back from beyond the brink back to herself.

Lydie’s background of abuse from her uncle, and the trauma she witnessed and experienced, art releases the anguish she feels to form her own style.  Although Lydie’s art evolves throughout the series, she uses the power of visuals to transform those negative images in her mind into empowering, beautiful things that touch and impact lives long after we’ve finished the last stroke.  To quote Mary, “every artist who evolves a style does so from illusive elements that inhabit his or her visual storehouse.”

I wish I could have discovered Mary’s life and work a lot earlier, but I was ecstatic to get to opportunity recently to see her work in person, and while she’s still with us. As Mary noted in her one of her emails her class was a fine group and is shrinking by the year. With her permission, I’m sharing a few of my photographs of her work I took from my visit a short time ago.

If you get the chance to visit with Gary Tibbetts, you’re in for a real treat. He’s a wonderful fountain of knowledge, and a great guy. You will stay there a while, and you will love it.  I wanted several of Mary’s pieces, and I left with her book on Crop Circles, something she has researched for over fifteen years. Many of her books on art are available for purchase online on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Carroll-Nelson/e/B001K8F84Y

 

Some of Mary’s work. I apologize that I’m not the best photographer:

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Crop Circle. This was one of my favorites.
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One of Mary’s miniature paintings.

 

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One of her layered works. This iridescent piece changes colors with different angles.

 

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The author with a grouping of Mary’s layered pieces and her miniature.

 

For more on Mary’s pieces at Weyrich Gallery,  visit http://weyrichgallery.com or if you’re in the Albuquerque area, stop by at 2935-D Louisiana NE.

Next up on Behind the Book, it’s Henry’s turn I go Behind the Book to share the physicians that mentored Henry at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Christmas Hamper Giveaway!

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I’m thrilled to be part of this year’s Bookluver’s Christmas Hamper giveaway with both of my books Beneath a Moonless Sky and Before the Flood! There are  a lot of excellent books in the hamper this year, including some by my friends Marion Kummerow and Dianne Ascroft.  There is something in every genre to fill your Kindle full of new books as we settle into the colder months.

Speaking of Kindle, one of the giveaways is for a Kindle and other great prizes!

Want to enter to win this and other amazing prizes? Then head over  here for more info::https://bookluver.com/book-giveaways

 

 

Before the Flood is now available!

Note: I receive a small amount of compensation from books ordered on my site through Amazon.

The second chapter of the Laurelhurst Chronicles is now live online and available through a number of retailers! A sneak peek is on the books page!

The paperback edition is available exclusively through Amazon or myself at signings or by request. If you want to order a signed copy, you can now go to the Extras page and fill out the form.

The eBook edition is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and Kobo. Library distribution is coming soon!

Thanks so much for supporting independent presses.

Happy Publication Day!

 

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The wait is over! It’s Publication Day for Beneath a Moonless Sky!

To celebrate, I’m giving away a signed author’s copy to one lucky winner on Facebook and Instagram! That’s two chances to win!

Want to win? It’s simple! Look for the post with the graphic above,  comment with the hashtag #BeneathMoonlessSky and share! The winner will be selected at random.

I hope you will enjoy Lydie’s story as much as I did writing it!

Cheers,

Kellie

 

 

Revamp!

The Laurelhurst Chronicles series will be a year old next week. Thank you to everyone who has purchased Night and Day, read it, or reviewed it. Being an author is a learning process.  I’m making some significant changes I think you’re going to love.

In light of that, as of today, my debut novel is no longer listed for sale on Amazon and other online retailers while we go through this process.  I’m working with a great team.  If you have already downloaded it, you should still be able to read it. For those of you that haven’t, hold on to your socks.

Check back here for the latest developments! For those of you who are reading Night and Day, send me an email with any feedback to kellie@kellierbutler.com

Thank you for being so understanding and supportive of my work. It means the world to me. You give me the chance to do what I love, and I’m grateful for it.

Cheers,

Kellie

 

 

 

 

Now Appearing! Q&A with the author on chapterinmylife

I’m pleased to be a part of  #TimeForCrime, a new  Q&A blog series over at chapterinmylife that goes behind the page or screen to delve into our minds as authors and bloggers.

Dr. Goodall’s character in my novel Night and Day was partially inspired by two great cases in British history. Regina v. Adams (1957) and Regina v. Shipman (2000).  Both are suspected in the deaths of hundreds of their victims. Dr. Shipman was convicted on multiple counts of murder. Dr. Adams was found innocent however he was found guilty of multiple counts of prescription fraud, obstruction a police search,  forgery of cremation documents, and failure to keep a dangerous drugs log. He was stricken from the Medical Record in 1957 and reinstated in 1961.

Dr. Goodall’s name was coined by a phrase that people called Dr. Adams. They would call him “that good Dr. Adams.” Dr. Adams was known by his elderly patients for appearing compassionate and good to his patients, just like Goodall’s character appears to be with Lydia. I based Lydia’s treatment by Goodall upon information from a 1939 case of Dr. Adams. I had already formulated the method for Dr. Goodall but I was awestruck just how uncanny his methods were with Dr. Adams. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

Want to know how Adams and Shipman differ from Goodall’s character? You’ll have to read Night and Day.

via #TimeForCrime: getting to the darkest heart of writers and bloggers! With Kellie Butler @kellierbutler

February’s Newsletter is out!

It’s been a while since I released a newsletter, but I a fresh one hot off the presses. In it, I discuss method writing, some new releases in historical fiction from my fellow authors, my latest vintage purchases, and a little something about reviews.

Next week I’m publishing special content on Valentine’s Day as a holiday in the late 40’s and into the 1950’s, only for my readers’ club and as my upcoming novel Before the Flood is a romantic thriller, I’ll introduce a couple of the main characters. Don’t miss out! Need to sign up? Just look down to the right of my site and click the link.

Also, the first novel in the Laurelhurst Chronicles, Night and Day, is available at all of these online retailers as an e-book. You can grab it here:

https://books2read.com/LaurelhurstChronicles1