Charlene Carter has a smile that signifies her vitality. She is an exuberant trailblazer that shares her many gifts and talents in the Shoals area. The oldest of 3, Carter revels in the fact that she is fabulously 60. “We can be free at any age.” She grew up in Tuscumbia, AL and now resides in Muscle Shoals, AL. When I met Carter in African dance class, I learned that she painted and had some of her work at her home. I visited and fell in love with everything she had. I ended up with one of my favorite pieces. It is untitled and free of gender, which touched my soul. It intentionally held no boxes or limitations. That’s how Carter rolls, a woman free in spirit.
Influenced by her mother and paternal grandmother, Carter always “enjoyed” art. “At age 7, Mom did a mural of Raggedy Ann and Andy, and the image came alive for me…just the idea that this painting came from nothing to this image.” As an active, working single mother, Carter got her degree in Sociology at University of North Alabama, but went back for a degree in Art. Her sons, Brandon, 40, and Marlon, 37 both have artistic talent.
Carter has worked in many mediums, and currently uses “natural items to create art.” She makes ink from poke berries, paper from irises, herbal soap, and recycled paper from herbs. Carter makes charcoal from trees and has created charcoal portraits of Extraordinary African American Women. These women were an inspiration to Carter. “I looked at my life and realized that these women encouraged me. They made accomplishments when things were really hard for black people. ” Carter notes, “They were normal people who focused on their passion. If they could do it, anybody can.”
Carter feels that all of her work and processes are connected. “I sometimes have 3 things going at one time. I read 3 books at one time,” Carter indicated. “I can be painting and have to step away to work on another project that takes me back to the painting.” One practice that keeps her centered is Yoga.
Carter’s mother, Dorothy, began to teach her children yoga. In small town, AL, these African American children were downward dogging and standing on their shoulders. Today, yoga is a touchstone for Carter. Recently retired, she indicates, “These last few years I have been able to focus on myself.” In the future Carter says, “I hope to teach 40+ (mature) people the importance of maintaining health, not in an invasive way, but to connect with their body and feel the breath and control from within.” Carter hopes that mature folks do not “give up” on themselves and succumb to poor quality of life.
Carter has a strong desire to have a greenhouse and become completely self-sufficient. “I have over 100 plants in my home. They brighten my day.” She remembers a time, as a little girl when she was free to connect with her friends, family, and the earth without the contamination of society. She hopes to live in that state of being. Carter lives what she hopes for others, “…that you find your true self and live accordingly.”
Artist and purveyor of life, Carter also serves as a lead drummer for the C.O.R.E. Drummers .
Written by Victorine
Founder, Editor-in Chief,
Garden Spices Magazine,
Author of Be SAFE
Cover by Charlene Carter