Carrie Beth Waghorn is a light. The world, as it is today, can seem dark, or at best, hazy, requiring us to squint our eyes until something like love or goodness peers through. Waghorn is, with every piece of art she creates, shining just a little bit more light into that haziness.
"When you are an artist who paints nude women, it's less about nudity as a statement and more about the fullest expression of self love and acceptance," says Waghorn, who creates ink paintings of the female form. Waghorn was sexually assaulted at age 14. This experience, one that she didn't acknowledge for many years, informs her work. Some of her women are fully clothed — "In My Pocket" smirks at you from behind pink sunglasses — but most are nude, either in their entirety, or in bits and pieces, like the charming bust of "Budding."
"My story is incredibly personal," says Waghorn. She's upfront about it too — you can read all about the driving force behind her art in her artist's bio.
The words are chilling; you want to turn your eyes away from what happened to Waghorn, a different reaction from what you may experience when viewing her works. Writes Waghorn, "At the age of 14 I became a statistic. When I went to sleep I was myself. I was whole. I emerged from slumber as half a person, as half a girl. My body was there. He was there."
Waghorn says that her story explains the images that she makes. "It's not just about femininity or sexuality, there's a deeper level to it."
Before she started inking nude women, Waghorn worked as an ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapist for children with autism and related disorders. "It was amazing," says Waghorn. "I kept giving and giving and I was really good at it, and I was great at connecting with children. But it reached a point where the burnout was real."
That point coincided with several other points — the sharp, deep kind. "Two years ago was crazy. I quit my job. The girl whose apartment I lived in had to move out, I didn't have a place to live. I went through a really bad breakup. A week after that my mom died. Everything happened at once," she says.
"I still feel like I'm processing it on a daily basis," she continues. "Experiencing that loss has generated a lot of space, and it's, 'How do I fill this space?'"
Waghorn started creating art — filling empty spaces — as an untaught artist. "What really made me decide to move away from the 9-5 was just kind of following an instinct. I think my experience when I was 14 was a part of that," she says. Waghorn is clearly talented, taught or not, and she says that a huge part of her art is the process involved in making it.
- “Empress Of” (detail)
"Something that has been super awesome was figuring out my process, and figuring out why I was doing that," she says. "It involves a lot of music, a lot of yoga. It was never really something I planned, it just sort of evolved. If you were to watch me paint you would probably think I looked like a crazy person."
The movement Waghorn incorporates in her artistic process shines through in the fluidity of her women, and in nude photographs of Waghorn creating (you can check them all out on her website, carriebethwaghorn.com). The images are gorgeous and create a context for work that most viewers don't normally have access to. We can thank Allie Monday, the photographer behind Greenville, S.C.'s LadyGroove, for the images.
"She discovered me on Instagram," says Waghorn. "She does via photos for women what I do via ink. I met her on a whim and I just went there with an open mind."
Monday is a woman-centered boudoir photographer who wants to document "a loving relationship between you and your body." Her Instagram is filled with amazing, light-filled images — check out the handle, ladygroove.
Waghorn's experience with Monday was one she's had in which she begins to move away from her sexual assault. "I kind of overidentified with that," says Waghorn. "Coming out of that now, it's not about identifying as a survivor or victim, it's just part of who I am. If anything I think I'm grateful for it. It's allowed intense healing, empathy, and connection to women who are feeling the same thing."
And Waghorn wants to transcend her own experience when connecting to women — she has a bigger plan in mind that would give back to others in the same way she's been able to give back to, and nurture, her own self. "I'm trying to get into textiles," says Waghorn. "My idea is to create a brand/blog that is Humans of New York combined with textiles combined with the empowerment of women." Waghorn laughs when describing her plan, but she's all business when it comes to putting things into action. "I want to call it the World Ink Project, WIP, which also stands for work in progress and women in power. I've got this power acronym going on. If I generate enough profit I would love proceeds to go to a women's shelter," says Waghorn.
Until then, though, Waghorn has shows planned at Sullivan's Island's Show and Tell Art and Design and downtown's Meyer Vogl Gallery. She's in between series now, working on textiles, painting nude with her cat in her home studio, continuing to let out what she's discovering inside of herself. "Experiencing something outside of your consent is traumatic," says Waghorn. "They way you use it can be incredibly healing."