Painter and Teacher
"I am a Cuban American artist and proud of it. I draw the beauty
of my homeland when I was a child and incorporate my marine background
using the colors I see here in the Keys. What would the world be without
color. I can spend a lifetime drawing and it would not be enough. Give
me a paintbrush and I will find a surface to paint." Carmen Kelley
has been involved in art shows since college. Carmen's media is mainly
acrylics although she also works in prismacolor pencils. She has taught
art, science and social science in three different Florida counties
for the last twenty years. Presently, her art is found in The Key Largo
Art Gallery, galleries in Miami, and Chocoloskee near Naples.
Carmen Sotolongo-Kelley of Key Largo moved to the US in 1962. She
left Cuba with her parents and grandparents, living in Venezuela for
a year. They fled like many others during that time with only the clothes
on their backs and no money in their pockets. Carmen's father, a doctor,
and her mother, a teacher with a Ph.D. in pedagogy, were stripped of
their degrees and had to hunt for jobs to survive. From selling fruit
in the streets to working midnight shifts and studying during the day.
They spent the next seven years living in St. Petersburg recreating
their careers. Her father studied to re-earn his degree in medicine
and her mother he Ph.D. in education.
Carmen grew up learning the value of a good education and also being
very thrifty. With little money for toys or luxuries, she would entertain
herself by drawing and creating her own cutout t dolls, designing dresses
and the places they lived on paper. Growing up, she says she always
asked for art materials, pencils, and paper for birthdays and holidays.
She took every art class in school and in college majored in social
science and art. Later, she went into the filed of science with a focus
Carmen was lead teacher for the Florida Institute of Oceanography,
and created the idea for the Oceanography Camp for girls based at USF
Marine Science campus while working at Dixie Hollins. When her husband
was transferred to Miami in 1997, Carmen has taught in Pinellas and
Lee Counties and is presently teaching in Monroe County where she was
voted teacher of the year at her school. Although a science teacher
(focusing on the marine environment), Carmen always wanted to own a
Gallery."I have spent my lifetime drawing. I went to college and
studied Social Science along with art classes my first time around,
and then I went back and added science to my education. I have combined
the best of both worlds in my artwork." Carmen was selected as
an artist representing the Keys to the Miami Sister Cities Art exhibit
in Miami. Her art is sought out by many who visit the quaint gallery
Carmen says, " I left Cuba when I was only 6 yet I remember in
detail my home in Calimete, province of Matanzas, my grandparent's home
in El Nautico, Havana, the house in Varadero, as well as the smells,
food, beach, sand, music. Growing up in the United States, I lived two
cultures. I was taught pride of being Cuban born, but I was also very
proud to become an American. I know two languages, twice as many words.
'Soy Latina.' I am very proud to be a part of two worlds."
In her own words, "My art depicts a combination of my two cultures,
my love for the environment, the colors of the marine life in the coral
reefs, mangroves and places I have visited. Happy vibrant colors, blue
greens of the waters surrounding us, royal palms of my past, guayabera
dressed men, cigars and domino tables. Mix these all together and they
represent my life."
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