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It’s not often that artists find themselves living in the lap of luxury, but this past spring, Carolyn Lee Vehslage ’83 was living the high life as artist-in-residence aboard a luxury cruise liner, Crystal Serenity.

For about 14 weeks, Vehslage, a fiber artist, cruised aboard the ocean liner, visiting 20 countries and 40 ports. On the 40 days the ship did not stop at any ports, Vehslage designed a quilt to tell the story of the voyage, which began in Los Angeles and ended in London; taught her shipmates the techniques of creating six-inch blocks for the quilt; and assembled the gigantic piece of art.

“Anytime an artist is offered a residency, it’s an honor, and, as a sailor, it’s been my lifetime dream to sail around the world — although I never expected it to be in such luxury,” she says. “The guests were thrilled to see their individual blocks form a larger overall pattern that tells the story of the voyage from start to finish. The quilt and program were so well received that I’ve been asked back for the 2006 world cruise.”

While Vehslage taught traditional quilting techniques aboard the ship, her current personal work focuses on how technology impacts our lives, and she incorporates various forms of media, such as compact disks, wires, and other recycled computer components, into her wall hangings.

“With titles such as ‘Fried Circuits’ and ‘Motherboard Meltdown,’ the computer series has struck a responsive chord with viewers,” she says. “While they seem light-hearted and colorful at first glance, they bring out feelings of how microchips have infiltrated and complicated our daily routines. All these automated gadgets were supposed to make our lives simpler, but the benefits come hand-in-hand with new sources of stress.”

Vehslage’s reputation is spreading. Not only has her talent been recognized by the California-based cruise line, but she was artist-in-residence at Galeria Sophia Wanamaker in San Jose, Costa Rica. She also was offered a residency at Museo de la Cultura in Valencia, Venezuela, but a scheduling conflict prevented her from accepting the honor. Last fall, Vehslage worked with fifth-graders on a wall mural project as artist-in-residence at Long Beach Island Foundation for Arts and Sciences in Loveladies, N.J., which is funded through the Dodge Foundation.

Her computer collages are in the permanent collections of Museo de Collage in Morelos, Mexico; Musee ArtColle in Sergines, France; San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles in San Jose, Calif.; ARA Gallery in Miami, Fla.; Kelekian Art Gallery in Beirut, Lebanon; Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; and Museo de la Cultura.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) chose a photo of one of her creations from 700 entries as the agency’s 2004 holiday greeting.

“It is important to me to be part of the ADA’s message because my grandfather, Harry Edwin Hamilton, a 1932 graduate of Lafayette, died from diabetes complications during the spring of my freshman year,” Vehslage says.

Her artistic career didn’t begin immediately after graduating from Lafayette. As a major in economics and business specializing in computer science, she led a very successful career as a computer network specialist before becoming an artist. But Vehslage says her broad-based Lafayette education allowed her to take every fine arts class available and meet instructors who inspired her and guide her even today.

EdKerns [Eugene H. Clapp II ’36 Professor of Art and director of the Williams Visual Arts Center] continues to be encouraging to this day,” she says. “Ed Seifried [economics and business] provided a good business externship. Jim Crawford [mathematics] had amazing patience and a great desire to see his students succeed, and my freshman English professor gave me the confidence to first be a technical writer that later evolved into writing about the business side of being an artist.”

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles