Blacksburg woman adds art to list of talents
Carole McNamee describes herself as a mixed-media artist, a term that could easily be applied to her life, as well.
She seems to have created a collage of herself from a scrapbook of accomplishments, featuring her as mathematician, computer scientist, scholar, therapist, dancer, artist, wife and mother.
She grew up taking ballet lessons and danced until she was 28. She took art in high school and college and considers it an important part of her growing-up years, but there is not an art degree on her impressive list of degrees. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, a master’s and doctorate degree in computer science, and a doctorate in marriage and family therapy. She graduated from Simmons College in Boston, Mass., where she met her husband, Mark, an MIT student, and not long after, they both left the Northeast for the sunnier climes of the Stanford University campus in California, where they continued their studies. The couple eventually had three children — Beth, Mark and Katie.
Along the way, she was a professor of computer science and studied psychology. They relocated to Blacksburg in 2001 so her husband could become the provost at Virginia Tech. McNamee quickly joined the Blacksburg Regional Art Association and completed her doctorate in marriage and family therapy at Tech.
Upon receiving her degree, she opened the Willowbank Wellness Center in Blacksburg, where she is a licensed marriage and family therapist who often uses the expressive arts in her work with individuals and families. She also offers contemplative art opportunities — a mandala meditation group and a collage practice called SoulCollage — for those interested in personal growth and exploration. Her art and dance background has joined with the Eastern healing practices of Hatha Yoga and qigong.
“These disciplines empower my deep interest in the connection between mind, body and spirit and inform the way I work with others,” McNamee said.
In spite of owning and operating Willowbank, somehow she finds two days a week to create art at home and at the Studio School in Roanoke.
All these pieces of McNamee’s life form the interesting collage she is today.
“I am interested in the relationship between art, creativity and the development of consciousness,” McNamee said.
“I have my own personal experience with each of my creations, nourished as the work evolves over time. Sometimes it is the process of creating a work or series that becomes a metaphor for my life experience.”
McNamee’s home is filled with her varied and interesting art.
“I find art tends to change in periods of transition,” she said. “For me, it is about, the relationship between art and consciousness — how you see your life, how the things that happen to you, positive or negative, impact your art and your ability to create something meaningful, as well as beautiful or thought-provoking.”
McNamee never knows where her art will take her next, and her artworks clearly indicate many turns and winding paths. A pile of presentation books contains 100 hand-drawn mandalas she created in as many days. Her easels, two in the sunroom, hold partly finished acrylics of vastly different subjects. A large art bin holds large and small pieces, mostly abstracts, some finished, some not. The counter in her studio holds a collection of Ampersand panels coated in thick mediums, carved and colored on their way to being a collection of related pieces.
A very thin, black book with one origami-style, fan-shaped page of graph paper still intrigues her as she tries to make a connection between her art and mathematics with which to further decorate the piece.
“I use all sorts of things in my artwork,” McNamee said. “Acrylic, watercolor, pastel, collage, book arts.”
A recycled piece of Tyvek from a postal envelope might end up being center stage in an abstract, and a black paper silhouette of a man in a hat has been known to show up in several pieces.
McNamee’s main goal of her art is the doing of it, the exploration of it, the use of art in general in her therapy work.
She doesn’t work hard to exhibit her personal pieces or sell them, though she occasionally does both. In May, she will share a large number of her works in an exhibit at the Virginia Tech Alumni Center.
Put that show on your calendar. It might be a therapeutic experience for you.
More of Carole McNamee’s artwork can be found at www.carolemcnamee.com.
– Submitted by Gerri Young
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