TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Friday, August 20, 2010

TAFA Members Talk: Carol Larson

TAFA Member: Carol Larson

Last February I launched an organization called TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List.  We are now at over 150 members and each new member who joins brings an interesting story.  When Carol joined, her Tall Girl Series caught my eye, and as a tall person myself  (I'm 5'11"), I asked her about it.  I was horrified to hear that her parents had her surgically shortened when she was a teenager so that she would "fit in" better.  

Me and Adelia, 1975
I know very well what it feels like to stick out and tower over everyone else.  I grew up in Brazil as a missionary kid and although our city was incredibly diverse, I was still very tall compared to the locals, especially for a girl.  My best friend was Japanese.  We met when I was 6 and she was 9 years old.  We were the same height and weight.  She stopped growing and I kept going and going and going.  I grew quickly and was almost my full height at the age of 12.  I have always had joint problems and as I am aging, the problems have become worse.  

Carol's story is important to me in many ways.  Most significantly, it is a testimony to the healing power of art.  As I have expanded my creative community through the internet, I have found that many of us deal with all kinds of physical ailments and that having a creative outlet not only heals, but in many cases, also allows us to work at home and earn an income that might be difficult in a traditional work environment.  

Secondly, it is an example to me of how our society enables horrible mutilations in the name of "beauty".  We look down on "primitive" groups who practice tattooing, scarification, tooth chipping, and most abhorrent, female genital circumcision.  Yet, our "evolved" modern society endorses all kinds of mutilation in order to look younger, more sexy, and to fit in.  I heard once that Dolly Parton, Cher, and Elizabeth Taylor, all short women, had their bottom ribs removed in order to have a better hour glass figure.  I don't know if that is true, but do know that it is a practice in the movie industry.  The worst example of this is Sarah Burge who has had over 100 surgeries to look like Barbie, the doll.  On the other hand, I have several friends who have had breast cancer, had their breasts removed and are now going through breast reconstruction surgeries.  Each person needs to decide for themselves what they need in order to come to peace with their unique burdens.  Carol, however, wasn't allowed to make that choice.  Her parents did it for her and then forced her into silence.  She has now found her voice. 

Carol: A Tall Girl

Carol Larson
When I was 17 years old and 78” tall I was surgically shortened with the intention of giving me a normal life. I was also forbidden by my father from talking about it.  Fast forward four decades and I was living in daily pain in a broken body with anger and sorrow oozing from my pores. With my family maintaining the secret, I began to speak by writing.

From my stories I created thermofax screens and screen-printed the words to cloth. I felt compelled to do more so I began a four-year healing process which became the Tall Girl Series: A Body of Work: 23 narrative quilts, a self-published book, a PowerPoint lecture and a traveling exhibit. www.live2dye.com/tallgirl.html

The Tall Girl Series: A Body of Work made its debut February 2010 at Rogue Community College’s Wiseman Gallery in Grants Pass, Oregon with a future exhibit June 13-July 8, 2011 at the Park National Bank Gallery at University of Cincinnati Clermont College in Batavia, OH.  I spend a fair amount of my time marketing this exhibit as it carries a very powerful social message about self-esteem and body image, a subject still so relevant today.

"In My Wildest Dreams", Art Quilt by Carol Larson

Included in this series are: In My Wildest Dreams (53” x 31”) which illustrates my frustration with my loss of mobility; that I can no longer dance, run or ski.

"On a Scale of 1-10", Art Quilt by Carol Larson

On a Scale of 1-10 (43” x 61”) addresses how often the pain is off the medical industry’s scale of pain measurement.  In this detail shot from Medical Research (70” x 33”) the viewer sees the scrutiny & humiliation I endured as a ‘case study’ for aspiring medical students.

"Medical Research", Art Quilt by Carol Larson

Completing the Tall Girl Series: A Body of Work allowed me to heal these old wounds to my body and my heart, to take my story public and to receive acknowledgment that indeed this was a barbaric solution to what was really a parental obsession.  The series also allowed me acceptance of the long-term debilitation brought by these surgeries and living in daily pain. 

Being a great believer in holistic medicine I now rely primarily on acupuncture, acupressure and movement for pain management; although I am not ruling out medical marijuana brownies in my elder years!  Today my focus is on challenges and obstacles; as stamina, agility and comfort are my primary concerns in life. The more present I am in my body the less often I am injured.

Currents Series, Art Qults by Carol Larson

Completion of the series also freed up my creativity to design new and exciting work. In my everyday work I dye, paint and stitch art quilts with a variety of vintage textiles.   The Currents series deals with my obsession for the curvy line and new work, Upheaval, represents the chaos brought on by Alzheimer’s which now affects my father.

"Upheaval"  Art Quilt by Carol Larson

Visit Carol's Member Profile on TAFA for more information on her work and web links.
Click: Carol Larson 

 Do leave comments for Carol both here and on TAFA.  We welcome you!



  1. Carol - I'm thrilled to know your work will be exhibited near Cincinnati next year - can't wait to see it!

  2. Great blog... on many levels..so glad I opened it when I had some time to read it.


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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