Logo: American Artist Chloe Dee Noble
Published May 18, 2005
The West Georgia BEACON
By Ada Ezeokoli
Beacon Staff Writer
Sofia, Bulgaria, is a city far away from Georgia. But for 12 days in June, invited artists from around the world will get a chance to see and feel the artwork of world renowned artist and Georgia native Chloe Dee Noble at the fourth Lessedra World Art Print Annual. . . For Noble, the exhibit in Sofia comes at the pause of an adventurous, intriguing, and difficult journey of artistic self-discovery.
Her mother said it was apparent early on that Noble was interested in art. "When she was little, and I mean tiny, the first thing she tried to do was draw."
And apparently that talent stuck. Noble said that "By the age of 12, everything I wore was sewn and designed by me." At that same age, she won a national 4-H contest for which she had designed and made a jumper and a jacket.
She carried her love of art and design into high school. "During study hall, I would design a dress." she said. "After school I would pick up the fabric for the dress, sew it that night, and wear it to school the next day."
Her passion for art was so obvious that she was known in high school as the "School artist and clothes designer," and she said some of her friends would wear her designs to school. She also designed and made the dress she wore to the junior prom.
When high school was over, Noble headed to the Atlanta Art Institute to continue pursuing her artistic dreams. . .
It was in Atlanta that Noble's knack for fashion design would get a professional opportunity to shine. She said she was approached in November 1969 by Billy Joe Royal, a popular rock star, to design outfits for his stage.
She said she designed eight outfits, thinking he would only buy one or two of them. "He bought all eight, and invited me to attend the opening of his tour," she said.
At Royal's tour, Noble's designs caught the eyes of several Hollywood stars, including Joe South, the Everly Brothers, and Linda Ronstadt. With the almost instantaneous demand for her designs, Noble said she moved to Hollywood in June 1970, where she worked with Janis Joplin and her band, among others.
She worked in the Hollywood entertainment industry for the next 23 years, and in between designing she said she taught and studied a lot, as well as painted. "I always continued to paint and sculpt," she said. "I would send my work to competitions, because I knew that was important."
A chance vacation in 1993 to the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California ended her Hollywood fashion design career, Noble said. "I went there for vacation and fell in love with the city," she said. "I picked up a news-
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paper, and saw they were looking for an art director to direct the summer arts festival."
When she returned home, she faxed the city a note saying that she had the qualifications they were looking for in an art director. After interviewing her and 300 other people, the city's cultural council hired her on the stipulation that she had to move to Carmel.
"If I see an opportunity and it feels right and good in my heart, I just go for it," she said.
And she went for it then, moving to Carmel to start her new position as art director, while still keeping her home in Southern California. She also continued to develop her own artwork.
An almost fatal blow
Noble's life changed again on Sept. 27, 1996, a change that would dramatically affect everything in her realm, including her ability to produce art, the very center of her passion since she was young.
She said she had just returned to her Los Angeles home from an art exhibit in Phoenix, Arizona to take a short break before heading out to Paris. "I was scheduled to leave for Paris the next day," she said. "I came home, dumped my clothes on the bed from my suitcase, and did laundry."
Afterwards she went to bed, but would not sleep for long. "I woke up at 3 a.m., and my nose hurt so bad," she said. "I thought it was just dry from the Arizona heat."
She tried to go back to sleep, but the pain from her nose would not be relieved, so she finally went to see what was wrong with it. "I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror," she said. "My nose looked like a big purple plum, and right above my lip, I saw a sack of fluid and two bite marks."
She quickly ran back to her room and came face to face with the cause of the bite; a brown recluse spider, which was sitting on her pillow. "I think the spider might have been in my suitcase and crawled under my pillow," she said.
Pressing her face with ice, she went to the emergency room. "A lady doctor was walking towards me and as soon as she saw my nose, she yelled, 'spider bite' and they rushed me to a room," she said. "If I had been five more minutes I would not have survived."
Even after doing what they could, doctors told Noble they were not confident she would survive. She said the poison from the bite attacked different organs in her body, shutting down her thyroid and affecting her kidneys.
But that would not be the worst blow. Noble said, "Nineteen days after the bite, I woke up and I could not see."
The poison from the spider bite had resulted in Noble's loss of her eyesight, and she contends that was an extremely difficult blow to her spirit as an artist. "It's the most devastating experience I have ever had," she said. "I felt hopeless."
At the Proctor Foundation, the eye research center for the University of California, experts began to work to help Noble regain her eyesight while attending the Center for the Blind in Pacific Grove.
At the Center for the Blind, she learned Braille, mobility and home management skills. And as time passed, she slowly began to adjust to her new reality, even as she regained some of her sight. "I can see some, but if I saw you I can see four of you," she said.
But she was faced with the looming thought that, even with her partial eyesight, she would never be able to paint or sculpt again. It was a discouraging thought.
Noble said throughout the trials of losing her sight, she continued to receive support from friends and family, including one of her blind school instructors.
"I was having a bad day because I didn't think I would ever paint again, and my instructor, who taught me mobility and Braille, said to me about my art, 'That will find its way back to you'," she said.
On the road to recovery
Her family also got into the act of boosting her creative spirit. "My children encouraged me to get back into painting and got me a 5 x 5 canvas, and I would put the paintbrush in one of the four images I saw. It was difficult for a year or so, but it helped to retrain my focus."
Her passion for sculpting was unexpectedly re-ignited through the death of a friend, Noble
said. "I was friends with a young man who was also blind, and we used to talk and visit at the center every week," she said. "One day he was not there and I asked for him. One of the nurses told me that he had died from AIDS. It was AIDS that had caused his blindness. I did not know."
She said a friend pulled some clay for her, and she got up at 3:30 a.m. to sculpt, which was her usual routine. "I was moved by his death and I felt energy coming through my fingers to the clay," she said. "When I did the sculpture, I was totally blind."
She sculpted the bust of a man with purple dreadlocks, sleeping, and entitled the piece, "Beautiful Dreamer." The piece comes with a diamond earring in one ear, and the other earring for the person buying the sculpture.
For Noble, it was the beginning of creating art for the visually impaired, as well as to help raise money to fight AIDS.
For the exhibit in Sofia, Noble's paintings have been printed on parchment; then, the print is also produced on sticky labels, which are cut into pieces to fit over the original print to offer a raised surface to the images.
Each print is then embossed with Braille so that individuals may view - with fingertips - all of the raised images.
Noble has received numerous awards for her work around the world, including the International Visual Artist of the Year, Outstanding People of the 20th Century, Dame, Italy, Ordine Di S. Ciriaco, and the Silver Medal of Honour from Great Britain.
She is a member of the International Who's Who, Marquis Who's Who, Who's Who of American Women, and Who's Who in the World, among other organizations.
Her work will be disiplayed along with other contemporary artists' prints from June 1 to June 12 at the Royal Palace of Culture in Sofia. The Annual is hosted by the Lessedra Gallery and Contemporary Art Projects in Sofia.
Noble's work can be viewed and purchased at www.NobleSculpture.org.
Noble, who has the same birthday as blind American Author and Lecturer Helen Keller, June 27, said the loss of her eyesight has given her new insight into the lives of the disabled.
"I've learned how profoundly difficult it is for people with disabilities to try to function every day with any kind of dignity and optimism," she said.
But she said she is thankful knowing everything has a purpose. "My belief is that God gave me this gift so that I can give it to others," she said.
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