Wretched Excess

Artist Carole Spence

Greetings Dear Friends,

I lost an artist friend last week. Carole Spence was one-of-a-kind in so many ways. Kind and generous. Passionate and enthusiastic. Brave and bold. Cynical and funny.

We first met many years ago when we both showed our art at Topanga Canyon Gallery. Carole mostly created still-life paintings that were anything but still — all manner of gardens that caught her fancy and large vibrant blooms. One of the phrases she used to describe her art and her life was “wretched excess.” She liked big gestures, bright colors, glamour and glitz, and more of everything. She stood at almost six feet tall, and would wear high heels to further accentuate her height. She had a commanding presence with her Texas accent and badass attitude.

Carole was an art major in college, but took a very long detour away from art as a lifelong teacher and school principal. Education was important to her, and she continued to fund scholarships for young aspiring artists after she retired from teaching. She was delighted to be able to return to painting in the year 2000, and participated in many exhibitions and events over the years.

Here’s an explanation of her art, in her own words:

My work recalls the awe I experienced as a child wandering in my mother’s flowerbeds where everything seemed oversized, exuberant, and magic.

Below are some of her stunning paintings, and you can see more of them on her website.

Artist Carole Spence

“Red Peony,” acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 inches

Artist Carole Spence

“Rabuchin Garden #3,” acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36 inches

Artist Carole Spence

“Nanette’s Garden #3,” acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30 inches

Artist Carole Spence

“Spence Garden #12,” acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 inches

Artist Carole Spence

“Jane’s Garden #4,” acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 inches

Artist Carole Spence

Carole’s living room with her paintings. Photo by Lisa Goldfarb.

The painting below is a piece that she gave to me several years ago. It resides in my office and I gaze at it when I want to feel uplifted.

Artist Carole Spence

Carole was always very supportive of my work. She would often write to me after receiving my newsletter and provide encouragement if she felt I needed a boost. I will miss her bright spirit and wry smile.

Her over-the-top legacy lives on as her art continues to bring joy to all who knew her. She will be missed by many. Godspeed dear Carole. Thank you for brightening our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the US who are celebrating this week. Take very good care of yourselves, friends.

How can you incorporate some wretched excess into your life? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts. You can share them with us here.

With love and appreciation,



  1. Very sorry for your loss and her vibrant, joyful art. Hope your Thanksgiving can be filled with Gratitude for the good times you shared together. Be well.

  2. Thank you Cassandra for your beautiful words about Carole. You described her perfectly! She was an inspiration to many and will be terribly missed. I am so thankful that she introduced me to you and your paint pours a few years ago. This is a technique that I shared with my granddaughters and still experiment with them today. Art is beautiful and does bring people and the world together! Carole was so blessed to have so many friends – thank you for being one of those dear friends. I pray you find comfort as you move forward. Carole will always have her fingerprints in your art as you play and experiment. I will share this article with the other cousins. Be blessed this Thanksgiving.

    1. Hi Cindy. Thanks for sharing this with Carole’s other cousins. She was quite a character, and you’re right — an inspiration to many. I still hear her voice in my mind. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed working with poured paint! It is fun, and addictive. Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

    2. Cassie, what a beautiful tribute.. (you should begin writing your memoir…you, my dear friend, along with being an amazing artist, are a inspiring writer!! I’m not kidding!)…..

      That said, if there is a heaven, as my mother insisted there was, I’m certain that Carole is smiling down on you, as alive and vibrant as she was I this life. Her personality and artwork have now extended to everyone on your FB friend (and newsletter) list, and I, for one, already adore her having been fortunate enough to be one of those who received this tribute. I have a feeling that, like many other artists/musicians from history, that Carole’s story is just beginning, that she will become more well known in the future than she was in this life…not unlike some of my favorite classical composers that are timeless….her artwork is amazing.

      I’m so sorry that you have lost someone who you loved so dearly, but please know that, by writing this beautiful tribute and posting it, along with her artwork and website, you’ve opened a door, (or window?…when god closes a door, he opens a window!) letting a whole new sea of people into her life and art, bringing her memory to life ….keeping her memory alive through her artwork will now be more likely than not…and you have made that memory come to life for many who had never, before today, even heard of her. I just LOVE her artwork, Cassie! It’s amazing!

      I’m sending one great big, virtual, all encompassing and comforting hug to you…and then I’m going to go back and check out Carole’s website….I’d love for us to have a nice long conversation before the turn of the year. I’ve been having lots of health issues, making writing become more difficult and I feel like we began to get caught up and I dropped the ball because I have such a hard time writing and staying on task…

      It was completely my doing…but I still love you so much and miss talking. I hope you weren’t feeling as if I didn’t want to keep getting caught up. It’s not that at all!! …and so much has gone on in both of our lives since before 2019 when I sort of stopped writing to everyone….let’s try to plan a phone call before Christmas. (Doesn’t have to be planned. You can call me whenever. I’m almost always here excepting if I’m at the doctor)

      ….are you going to see your mom and Howie tomorrow for Thanksgiving? Ethan and I made an apple crisp and a pumpkin pie today..all from scratch, and Ethan did his very first pie crust without my help!l. He used a recipe on the iPad tablet that Julian gave him for zoom therapy appts with Heidi….he gets recipes and then he has them read the recipe read aloud to him step-by-step, pausing it between steps….the pie came out PERFECT!! I am SO proud of him!! I have so much to say, but can’t keep going tonight….call me anytime. We definitely need to catch up!!

      xoxoxo, joanie

      1. Hi Joanie. Good to hear from you! Interesting idea that Carole will be better known in the future than she was when she was alive. I hope I’m alive to see that! Yes, I’m driving to LA tomorrow to see Howie and my mom. My mom is doing really well there, and is happy to have people to live with rather than being alone. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss of your dear friend. Thank you for sharing her beautiful artwork. I love the sunflower. Happy Thanksgiving Cassie!

  4. Hiya sorry to read about your friend she was very talented love her work. So one hopes you have a great Christmas to you & yours . And most thanks for all your videos .Best Peter Scotland xx

  5. Thank you for this beautiful tribute to my cousin Carole! I cannot express how much her death has effected me. I was in awe of Carole as a child. She was always so flamboyant and full of life. Being ten years older I was under a spell. Being in different states for so many years I saw her occasionally but thought of her often. Then we reunited through emails and she was as wonderful as I knew she would be. I loved her and will miss her.

  6. Thank you for being such a good friend to Carole. I am a Texas cousin and always looked forward to her vibrant Christmas cards. Our collection is even more special now. We had planned to visit her this spring. She was very special. Wayne Miles

    1. Hi Wayne. I’m so sorry for your loss, and that you didn’t get to see Carole before she passed. Yes, her Christmas cards were wonderful, and I also have a collection! Delightfully creative.

  7. I was thinking about Carole tonight so I sent an email to her. She’s been on my mind recently and I’d wondered why I hadn’t seen her online. Sadly, I’m just learning that she passed away. The first thing was the email being returned which made me search Google for her. I found this post and beautiful tribute to a woman who made a lasting impact on my life 20 years ago. I’d taken the chance and reached out to her again a year or so ago. I was so happy that she responded to my message.

    Thank you for this lovely tribute. I don’t know you, but it is evident that you all were blessed by each other’s friendship.

    Shawni Smith
    Frisco, Texas

    1. Hi Shawni. I’m so sorry for your loss, and that you had to find out about Carole on the Internet. That must be hard. I’m guessing that you knew Carole when she was in Texas. Are you one of her cousins?

  8. I also found this because my email to Carole bounced. I’m another cousin and had been talking to her about purchasing a piece of art. I’m kicking myself for not following up more quickly – I couldn’t pick just one! Is any of her art still available?
    Thank you for this wonderful tribute.
    Ellen Julian

    1. I’m sad but thankful to have found this information. Carole was my Auntie Carole and I was her Mimi. She was married to my uncle Tony. She and I were in touch via email throughout the years but suddenly they were bouncing back and the phone was disconnected. A sad moment for me but I guess I knew deep down that she was gone. She was my only relative left. She is hopefully with Magic Nana aka my mom. It was lovely to read everyone’s comments.

  9. Dear Cassandra. Are there any remaining pieces of art from her inventory available. Can you send Me a link?

  10. Dear Cassandra,
    What a beautiful tribute. I did not know Carol, but I know how happy her cards made my mom. My mom met Carole some years earlier when they both served on Jury duty here in L A., circa 2005. She mailed my mom a card of her work each and every year thereafter. My mom passed 11/20/23 and I wanted to contact Carole to let her know. After seeing your posts, I can only hope that they have once again reunited in Heaven. RIP.
    Jennifer Darien

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