CAROL ANNE SARKISIAN DECEMBER 22, 1936 - JANUARY 12, 2013 SARKISIAN, CAROL ANNE, 76, a prominent Santa Fe artist, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by family and close friends, following a decades-long battle with cancer. A public memorial will be held at the St. Francis Auditorium in Santa Fe on Saturday, the 6th of April at 11:00 am. The eldest of two children, Carol was born Carol Anne McPhee on December 22, 1936 in South Boston, Massachusetts, to parents Joseph Francis "Mickey" McPhee and Mary Rose McPhee. Having discovered her passion for art at a young age, Carol attended the Massachusetts School of Art and the Boston Museum School, where she displayed an extraordinary talent for ceramics, and was said to be so beautiful that young men would walk into trees while turning to admire her. While in art school, Carol formed lifelong friendships with fellow artists William Georgenes and Don Shaw; and, in 1957, she met a young painter from California named Paul Sarkisian. They soon married and moved into a live/work studio space on Harcourt Street, near Boston's burgeoning gallery district. In early 1958, the young couple loaded all of their furniture and Paul's paintings into a rented boxcar and followed it out West, finally settling in Pasadena, California. Once there, Carol and Paul became involved in shaping the contemporary art scene in Los Angeles. They co-founded the seminal Aura Gallery in Pasadena with fellow artists Richard Pettibone, George Herms and others, and reunited with Paul's old friend and colleague, pioneering curator Walter Hopps. As a young ceramic artist, Carol became known throughout the West Coast gallery scene, and developed friendships with fellow potters John Mason, Peter Voulkus and Paul Soldner. In 1965 she gave birth to her only child, Peter, and together with Paul, she wove a life around her son that was rich with extraordinary experiences and people. Among their group of friends and colleagues at that time were legendary quantum physicist Richard Feynman, who often played bongos in their living room, experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage, actor Dean Stockwell, and artists Ed Kienholz, Wallace Berman, Billy Al Bengston, Phil Hefferton, Llyn Foulkes, John Altoon and many others. While living in Mendocino, California in 1968, Carol studied under master Pomo basket weaver Elsie Allen, and in 1971 she worked at the University of Oregon on Pomo basket conservation and repair. Her knowledge of Native American antiquities became well known, and in 1975 she was awarded an N.E.A. grant for conservation work on Navajo weavings. In 1971 the family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Paul had been invited to produce a lithographic series at the Tamarind Institute. They lived and worked in the old Albuquerque Ballroom, situated on the top floor of the historic Oddfellows Building, since demolished, where Paul painted and Carol began her textile work. Then, in 1972, Carol and Paul purchased the old Santa Fe Public School complex, located on a bluff above the small town of Cerrillos, New Mexico. With a full-scale gymnasium now at their disposal, replete with bleachers, theater stage and basketball hoops, the roller skating parties the family hosted became well known. Soon Paul converted part of the gym into a studio; Carol claimed the old schoolhouse as her own; and the two got right to work. Together with friends and fellow parents in the area, Carol helped build The Children's Workshop, a cooperative school for local kids, equipped with an outhouse and lit only by kerosene lanterns. Drawing from her experience teaching young people at the Pasadena Art Museum in the 1960's, she then assumed the role of creative mentor and art teacher to her son and his classmates. Soon thereafter, Carol and Paul became friends with artist Georgia O'Keeffe, and they spent a great deal of time together at Georgia's Abiquiu home, or roller-skating together in the Cerrillos gymnasium. Carol remained a close friend and confidant to Georgia from that time on, personally designing and sewing many of Georgia's iconic minimalist garments, and even caring for Georgia just prior to her death in 1986. The 1970's were a busy time for Carol, as she divided her time between Peter's continuing education, Paul's busy exhibition schedule in New York and abroad, and working in her own Cerrillos studio. Carol and Paul moved to Santa Fe in 1981, and in 1984 Carol was diagnosed with breast cancer. However, this didn't slow her down. Her work continued to evolve and grow through a variety of media, which included painting, ceramics, assemblage, textiles and bronze. She became world renowned for her original jewelry, and in 2009 won a prestigious international design award given by the Swarovski gem company. Among the dedicated admirers who collected Carol's jewelry were former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and pioneering French artist/filmmaker Niki de Saint Phalle. In 2004, Carol's son, Peter, married Lisa Etienne Wynne. Carol formed a strong bond with Lisa, and came to regard her as the daughter she never had. Then, in 2006, Carol's grandson, Roman, was born and a new chapter in her life began. With her fight against cancer now entering its third decade, Roman was for Carol a renewed call-to-arms, and she was his closest friend. During her 58 year career as an artist, Carol Sarkisian exhibited in many museums and public venues, including The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, The Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, DC, The Pasadena Art Museum, The La Jolla Art Center, The Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, The Mendocino Arts Center, The Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, NM and The Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, NM. While not working in her studio or exhibiting her own work, Carol gained extensive teaching experience, with positions at The Los Angeles County Art Museum, The Glendale Art Center, Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Aspen, CO, and The Pasadena Art Museum. Following a lifetime of artistic achievement, deep friendships and strong family tradition, Carol will be remembered as brilliant yet humble, learned yet eager to learn, and always present when you needed her. She leaves behind a creative legacy that spans the contemporary art world and cements her place within it. Most importantly, she leaves behind her family and friends, who will keep her forever in their hearts. Carol Sarkisian is survived by her loving husband, Paul Sarkisian, her devoted son Peter and his wife Lisa, her brother Joseph McPhee and his wife Mary Ellen, her niece Lois Sarkisian, many loving family members and close friends, and by her truly beloved grandson, Roman Wynne Sarkisian. The family requests that any memorial contributions be made in Carol's name to breast cancer research. Following the memorial ceremony a reception for family and friends will be held. Peace and love to Carol
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Published in Santa Fe New Mexican on Jan. 25, 2013.