A Secret Grave 24: Caroline

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I didn’t know Caroline Guerrero-O’Hara very well when I began working on her painting last January, although I’d seen her over the years at woo woo dance where, in loose clothes with a decidedly vintage feel, she looked like every other hippie on the floor.

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ecstatic dance 2

Ecstatic Dance, Photo Credit Benjamin Chun, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

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She was very beautiful, coal black hair, big dimples, an engaging smile. According to what I’ve heard, she was born and spent a good chunk of her childhood in La Paz, Bolivia, where her father, probably well into his fifties at the time, was a revered statesman and poet. Her mother,  an American anthropology student named Barbara O’Hara, was doing field work in the country when she met Caroline’s dad. The two were not married; in fact, the dad had another family with three or four children, but, despite the unconventional circumstances of her birth, Caroline grew up in and out of the household of the other wife and siblings. Eventually Barbara O’Hara returned to the States, where she took a teaching position at UT. Caroline, of course, accompanied her, though over the years she made frequent trips to Bolivia to visit her father and sister and brothers. That’s the back story. In her adult life, Caroline, who became a cellist and composer, was married twice — first to another musician, and second to a wealthy businessman and philanthropist — before she met her current husband, Josiah Bennett, whom she’s been with since 1998. Her children from the previous marriages are grown and out of the picture.

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Josiah & Caroline

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As I said, I had very little connection with Caroline until I began painting her. At dance she kept a low profile, packing up her things and leaving almost immediately after class. Sometimes I’d see her at Whole Foods, wandering ethereally through the store in the same hippie clothes she wore to dance – a delicate old nightie that showed off her thin collarbones or wide flowy pants that made her seem to glide like liquid on invisible feet.

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Whole Foods

DSC06862, Shawn Skriver, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

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Or I’d see her riding around town on her bike with Mercer, properly helmeted, in the child’s seat behind her. Or, on more than one occasion, I’d run into her at the opera, dressed not in hippie clothes, but gorgeous floor-length couture gowns with her hair swept up and extremely good diamonds in her ears. For me, she was and is a creature of mystery. Her soft dark eyes don’t tell you much more than she wants you to know and her smiling mouth always hides an element of wistfulness and pain… or is it yearning?

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When I was invited to a concert at the home of friends in Westlake, it was principally to see Caroline play that I decided to go. This was late in the spring of 2006, not too long before I hired a contractor and broke ground for the haunted-feeling studio hidden in the trees behind my house in Northwest Hills.

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To be continued…

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Cover photo ~ https://www.pinterest.com/pin/297519119105060798/

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