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Former teacher uses art to remember 9/11

Camille Doty

By Camille Doty
Sept. 10, 2012 at 4:10 a.m.

Artist Karen Burleson painted a three-panel tribute to the 9-11 attack. This panel represents the mood of the nation at 6:20 that evening when Burleson says, "everyone was patriotic and emotional for their country." Her artwork remains on display at the Victoria Art League through Oct. 14.

Karen Burleson gazed outside her windowsill on a sun-filled and calm Tuesday morning 11 years ago.

The 65-year-old Goliad resident's dreams of serenity were shattered when terrorists attacked the United States.

At that moment on Sept. 11, she realized life would never be the same for the nation she calls home. The warm, fuzzy feeling of security vanished as fast as the blink of an eye.

"That whole day, we were all afraid, you didn't know what was going to happen next," she said.

The retired teacher took a lesson in her own page book to express herself through three paintings, merged into one through the eyes of her kitchen window. Each one represents her feelings as the hands of time changed.

The Victoria Art League selected the award-winning artist to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Burleson looked at the paint can half-full, even in the light of tragedy.

"We were a united people," she said. "It's sad that it takes a war or something like this to pull us together."

Burleson used a wooden blind with a canvas backing to merge the paintings into one with one twist. A calendar, candlesticks, coffee mug, hummingbird figurine, apple, and alarm clock were all in tact at daybreak, but are scattered in the noon hour to display the chaos and trauma.

The portrait later becomes red, white and blue in the evening to evoke a feeling of patriotism.

Bill Bauer, president of the art league, described Burleson's work as amazing and pleasing the palette.

"The public would enjoy this," Bauer said.

Bauer and Burleson worked together in the Victoria school district for 27 years. The two former colleagues blended well together. Bauer focused on pottery; Burleson taught drawing, painting and design.

Although the grandmother of three hung up her apron in the classroom, her love for art remains. She entered almost every possible contest because she could devote more time to herself and won an "On My Own Time" exhibit.

In 2011, she helped 50 children make spirit posters for Anthony Pedone's film, "Roundball."

The 42-year-old filmmaker said Burleson was a tough, but caring teacher.

Pedone, a self-proclaimed teenage rebel, was excited to work again with his teacher. He described the reunion as magical.

"I was able to show her that I could focus on something," he said.

The former art student said Burleson pushed him to succeed.

"She wanted to bring the best out of me creatively and not settle for mediocrity," he said.

Although the former Victoria High School instructor encouraged students for a quarter of a century, Burleson learned lessons of creativity from her mother, Marjorie Maxine.

The featured artist also will display work inspired in loving honor of her mother during her birth month.

Burleson stored the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks into her mental Rolodex, as she had with the Oklahoma City bombings and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Those days were watermarked in her mind.

She felt compelled to pay tribute to those who died, but she let the paintbrush speak for her.

"Writers have words; artists have symbols," she said.



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