top of page

Getting Married

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Carolyn and I Wyoming 2002

In March of this year I got to go to Hawaii with one of my dearest friends, and creative soulmates. Carolyn and I have been friends for 30 years. One of our formative experiences was taking an Artists Way class together in Santa Fe, NM in 1997. It was a profound class, and I am still deeply bonded with many of the people in the group, because of how we witnessed each other’s creative hopes and dreams. I had a two-year old at that time, and was trying to figure out a creative life, and mothering. Carolyn was out of architecture school and a career in architecture, and had yearnings towards making fine art. I still remember the collage/assemblage pieces she made in that class, and the way she talked about them. They were extraordinary. She made art in a way I had not seen before, that was so different from anything I did. I loved it, and I was fascinated by it.

Carolyn found us the sweetest old beach cottage on the ocean, in a place called Puako on the Big Island in Hawaii. During the week we are there, we do not stray far from the house. There is ocean, and turtles, and whales from our porch. We joke that we are in a Mary Oliver mushroom trip the entire time. The whole week is one of those moments of grace that fall from the sky occasionally in life. One evening we are sitting outside at the dinner table in the hazy, humid, tropical dusk. One of the blessings of my friendship with Carolyn is that there are endless conversation topics…After thirty years there is still so much to talk about! A new love has arrived very unexpectedly in my life. I am full of the joy and possibility of it. I am sharing some of my delight with Carolyn. I ask Carolyn “Do you ever wish for a relationship? Imagine getting married again?” She stops me dead in my tracks with the next thing she says. “The relationship I now yearn for is with my creativity. I want to give myself to it completely. I cannot bear the thought of dying, not having tended, nurtured and embodied it with all that I am.”

The conversation is bracketed by talking about our mothers. Mothers who were powerful and deep, intelligent women. They both were filled with so much longing, and had a hard time finding their way to their creative lives in the oppressive period of the 1950’s and 60’s, while trying to balance being mothers, and corporate wives. Both were married to high-powered men. My mother left art school after one semester, returned to Bermuda, and was married by age twenty, and had four children. Carolyn’s mother longed to be an architect (I would get a BFA in Painting, and Carolyn a degree in architecture-how fascinating is that?) What struck me, what I loved, is that Carolyn broke the spell of a narrative for me. As women we swim in, (and drown in), the “your-life-is-defined-as-successful-by-finding-a-partner-and-living-happily-ever-after” narrative. Even now, after so much work, considering myself a feminist, queer, living an unconventional life, that narrative is still so deeply embedded in me. Life does not start until I find that partner. There is still a small girl inside of me waiting for a prince to kiss me and wake me up. WTF. I have done SO MUCH WORK on waking myself up. And yet here I am, some part of me still waiting.

I LOVED Carolyn saying “THIS”, “THIS is the most important thing in my life”. Doing this thing. Making art. Having My Voice. Putting my gift into the world. This is the most important thing in this phase of my life. There is no more time to waste. This is an imperative. I used to joke that Carolyn was my “art wife”. It was my way of saying I want to stay committed to creativity, and I saw Carolyn as representing that. I needed her as a symbol, and I think I have done the same thing for her. The thing is, actually, I must be my own art wife. The marriage is inside. I must make that commitment to myself. Carolyn spoke those vows out loud in Hawaii. She said, the most important thing right now is being married to myself and my art. I was astounded by it. And it has been with me so strongly ever since.

I feel in a new phase of my creative relationship with myself. I’m renewing my vows. I’m choosing This. Me. My creative life. And like most marriages it requires a daily commitment. I’ve struggled with names for women as they age; Crone, Spinster, Grandmother, what lands most in me is: Artist.

To see Carolyn Ellis's art go to her website

Or find her on instagram @carolynellisartist

facebook: Carolyn Ellis Artist

Carolyn with a recent body of work at the Santa Fe Art Fair in 2022

"Becoming Visible: Rage to Grief to Seed"

Paper Narrative by Carolyn Ellis

300# watercolor paper, cotton thread, 30"x22"

Carolyn at work in her studio in Napa

Carolyn in her studio

Collage made by Carolyn celebrating friendship between she and I and our friend Allison

457 views3 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Carolyn Ellis
Carolyn Ellis
Jun 28, 2023

I love you to the moon and back, beloved Art Wife. 🙏🏻❤️


Lisa Wederquist
Lisa Wederquist
Jun 28, 2023

Beautifully expressed, Bettina. Wonderful knowledge. Important. Thank you.


So beautifully written! Thank you for sharing your heart and soul. I have done the Artist way 3 times, last time was a year ago. It is a fabulous and always life changing experience. If I make it to Santa Fe I will reach out And if you ever make it to Sedona, please let me know, it would be great to meet you in person. Hugs and Smiles, Lisa

bottom of page