Friday, September 17, 2010

What Came First -- the lawyer or the artist?

As many of you know, I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 1979, amidst a background of social and political unrest in Argentina (during the so called "dirty war" where thousands of young people disappeared (i.e. were tortured and killed)), my father made the brave decision to move from his country to the U.S. in the pursuit of a better life for his family. Leaving one's country to start anew in a foreign land is never easy and my parents struggled, from both a cultural and economic standpoint, from that day forward. My father, a successful merchant marine captain in Argentina and my mother, a former medical practitioner, left everything behind for us. They faced economic hardship from the time they moved to the U.S. (my father was up in age and and my mother's medical license was not recognized in the U.S.). Still, they gave us the opportunity by coming to America to become lawyers and doctors and teachers, something that most likely, we would not have been able to pursue as easily in Argentina.

As struggling immigrants, my parents could not afford to send us to college. Hence, my siblings and I worked hard to put ourselves through. For me, it meant becoming Valedictorian from highschool so that I could get a scholarship to college, which I did. My hard work and good grades enabled me to attend the prestigious Newcomb College of Tulane University (one of the last women's colleges in the country).

Immediately, I was drawn to Newcomb's reputation for its art programs. Coming from a line of creative and passionate women (on my mother's side), I became enthralled with all the art classes, including print making, drawing, sculpting and painting. I adored the arts and spent all of my time in the basement of Newcomb working projects and watching more talented artists at work.

It was sophomore year and it came time to declare my major. Although my parents never came to visit me at my dorm (since they were disappointed that I had chosen not to live at home during college as my other siblings did), they did just this one time. My father and mother, both wearing worried looks, told me that although they realized I liked the arts, as immigrants, we could not afford to follow our dreams, but rather had to dedicate our minds and energy into becoming something that could support ourselves financially. "Do something, become someone, that will enable you to support yourself and your family one day. Becoming an artist is a silly idea, it is not something we can afford to do."

Those harsh words hurt me like nothing else, but I knew them to be true and the reality I needed to face. So that same evening, I went over to the Newcomb Art Building and took all of my finished pieces that I stored downstairs and threw them out in the dumpster behind the blown glass studio. I had made a decision and I needed to put all that silliness behind me. I could not do what I wanted to do in life and throwing my work in the dumpster was my way of committing myself to a new direction in life.

Two years later, I graduated Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Newcomb College with a B.A. in Communication Studies. I received the award for the Most Outstanding Communication Scholar and was invited to attend a special awards reception at the prestigious Newcomb Faculty Lounge which houses the most exquisite collection of Newcomb's art pieces collected through the years. After making my rounds greeting and thanking various professors, I perused the glass displays of beautiful pottery, sculptures and other art pieces. Some of the names on the pieces I recognized as now famous artists and Newcomb graduates such as Mignon Faget. I continued to look at all the displays when two of them (one metal welded sculpture and another a cardboard painted sculpture) caught my eye. They were two of my pieces! I stared at them in disbelief with tears in my eyes and saw that underneath them, each had a card that read "anonymous." Someone must have pulled them out from the dumpster that evening more than two years ago! Even though I had obtained every academic honor there was (which meant that I could now receive a scholarship to attend Tulane Law School -- which I did), I could not be more proud of what I saw behind the glass display. I didn't say a word to anyone, I never went back and don't even know if they are still there on display, but to this day, seeing those two pieces among the elite Newcomb art collection gives me a sense of validation. I may not have followed my dream then. I couldn't. I went on to become a lawyer and became quite good and financially successful at it. But I always went back to the feeling of utter happiness and pride that I felt when I saw those two "anonymous" sculptures in the Newcomb Faculty Lounge.

So now, at 42 years of age, I am finally doing what I have been wanting to do all of those years. I am creating, painting furniture, making my pieces works of art. Yes, I am a lawyer and if need be (and sometimes the financial need is too great), I can go back to practicing law. My parents were right in a way to steer me into a more academic path. I cannot fault them for helping me have a career to fall back on. But it's time for me to let my creative side take over for a while. I've waited a long time for this moment and it's finally here.

For a sample of my work, please visit me at Most of what you see has been "beautified" by me either by upholstering, painting or just simply adding a touch here and there of my little magic powder.


  1. What a beautiful story of life and the difficult choices that not only your parents had to make, but you as well. I think you were meant to see those "anonymous" pieces so that fire would remain in your heart and when the time was right, take its rightful place in your life. So glad your inner artist has emerged.


  2. Yur pieces are marvelous!! Thank you for sharing your story ... it speaks of strong family values, devotion and love!!! .. It is interesting that your journey began in Argentina .. my began in a similiar way in Portugal ... I went on to achieve my diploma in International Trade... yet something calls me to writing (especially post accident)..

    Yet, more interesting is that though i have never been to Argentina ~ something pulls me there .. i am hoping to visit next year ... and see what is there that has gotten such a hold on me... that I would like to live there...

    XO HHL

  3. Judy, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Sometimes, when I write things like this, I feel very vulnerable to have my life story out there for everyone to read. So thank you for your kind words.

    High Heeled Life - I would love to know too. Sometimes, I believe there is something very real that calls to us and you have to heed that calling. Argentina and its people are beautiful and very passionate in all aspects of their lives. It is sad that it has always been a place where political and economic instability have caused so many to have to leave. I would love to hear some day about your life in Portugal.

    Thanks again for writing!


  4. Dearest Karina .... that is such a beautiful, heart wrenching story. Such a journey you have travelled and such a strong woman has come through such difficult times. I really do believe it is your turn to shine and let your artistry grow. I am so excited for you! The pieces of life are so fragile yet so strong ... a little like the beautiful pieces you restore and bring back to life! You have an affinity with them. Have a wonderful week-end.
    hugs Frances
    ps my email is down again so yes please put the freight onto my card and I will email as soon as possible. Thank-you so much for keeping me up to date and also for your gorgeous comments. Will talk very soon .... Dom's party tonight!

  5. Karina, you have this amazing ability to make me cry (and that is very hard to do!) with stunning frequency. This is such a poignant story and one that I identify with very much. I have been very fortunate to be the only child in a financially secure family and, as such, did not have to rely solely on my own means to secure an education. But I did feel incredible pressure to not disappoint them (and all their investment), to get A's every time, to choose the "right" career (a practical career with job security, benefits, pension, etc), and all the while fighting within myself to satisfy that inner voice that demanded an extraordinary life, a life filled with beauty, a life pursuing the things that make me truly happy. I am so blessed to have a husband who is supporting me as I make my way down that path. It's so wonderful that you have this second chance to pursue your own path of joy! Enjoy every minute of it!

    Wishing you a beautiful weekend!
    Hope Ava

  6. Hi Karina,
    your Blog is beautiful!!!!
    I LOVE YOUR Design!!!
    Daniela DREAM SHABBY CHIC Milano

  7. Karina, your pieces are beautiful but I would really love to see a piece of your own art! Do you still do that? I think it would be really nice for the College to know the story of their two anonymous bits as that is something that would offer hope to others who dream and have to, in the beginning, discard those dreams.
    I always enjoy your writing and your stories and I really enjoy getting to know you a little more each time, I think you are an amazing young woman. xx Julienne

  8. Karina, I don't know you, but I graduated the same year you did from Newcomb. My own story is quite different from yours, but like you I feel that I am finally starting to come into my own at 42. The women I know from my time at Newcomb are very dear to me. I think we have all found our way, and for some of us, it has taken us a while. No matter - our lives all express something from that time we shared as part of Newcomb and that will not go away, even if Newcomb is in limbo at the moment. All best wishes, Linda NC '90

  9. Karina,

    I read about you in the TFoNC newsletter. What a great story! Does the Newcomb Art Gallery still have your two "unidentified" pieces of art?

    I hope we can restore Newcomb College so that our city produce more stars like you!

    A Wellesley alum


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