The Arts

Kevin Avery

Reptile

Love

ONE ARTIST'S CREEPY, C RAW LY ODYSSEY

e roAD WHAT gteuty..." ts "nr Vorr.qlRr succESTED; wnr ANSwER that it is a female with two great round eyescoming out of her little head, a large flat mouth, a yellow belly and a brown back." Ask the samequestion of renowned fiber artist Carole Alden Doubek and receivea not-so-different reply. Her hand-sewn and hand-painted soft sculptureshave alwaysdrawn their inspiration from those things that creep and crawl. Her grand reptiles and amphibians and their fantastical cousinsare perennial favorites and award-winners at the Utah Arts Festival.They have appearedat every major Utah museum and art center. The Royal Museum in Brussels,Belgium, has displayedher work, ashasWashington,D.C.'s National Museum of Women and the

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two years.Then you go and find it and knock all the snails and slugs offit, and, by golly, it still works." Her knowledge of lizards and the Iike is self-taught, but she can hold her own with any herpetologist. A few "just yearsback, forjollies," shetook the graduatelevel course in herpetology at Utah StateUniversity.In 1991, her work was featured at the International HerpetologicalSymposiumin Seattle,where Gary Larson, The Far Sldecartoonist, was presentedwith a Doubek original: it depicted the little boy who appearedin so many of Larson's early gagsbeing swallowedby an Argentine horned frog. Growing up, Doubek wanted to becomea veterinarian.When her parents wouldn't heed her initial appeals for live pets, she brought home road

Growing up, she wanted to become a veterinarian,but her parentswouldn't let her haveany live pets.
Arts. Last year, for an exhibit at the Red Butte Garden Arboretum, she createda rerycled rain forest using secondhandfabric remnants and stockedit with more than a dozen of (someher larger-than-lifecreatures times larger than the artist herself, who standsa quarter-inch shy offive feet tall). This fall, she is teaching a continuing education classat the University of Utah and will addressan international fiber arts conferencein Baltimore. Dixie Collegehas tentatively scheduleda one-person showing of her work. The U.S. Forest Servicehas commissioned her to createtwo hundred bats and assortedcavern creatures to populate a traveling cave exhibit. To simulate the look and texture of those of the scalypersuasion,Doubek harvestsmaterial from sourcesas fashionably toxic as double-knit stretch pants and leisure suits. She is downright evangelicalwhen it comesto the indestructible properties "I've of polyester. had stuffblow off the clothesline and be in a bush for "I kill instead. did autopsiesin the back yard and detailed drawings of the bone structure and the dentition and the vascular systemand tried to figure out what they had died from." She used to make toys for herself as a little girl, and by the time she was in high school she was crafting mythological creaturesout of stonewareand porcelain. It was when her first child was born that she delved into the possibilities of large toy construction. All of this accounts for Carole Doubek the artist. But Carole Doubek the woman, wife and mother is another story. A story as fanciful and strange- and sometimes frightening - as the creaturesthat spring from her imagination. Thirry-six yearsago, shortly after shewas born in a French monastery, her mother brought her to America on the final voyageof the Queen Mary. Shewas only a few weeksold, but to this day can recall watching something that looked like a gigantic tuba disappearingin and out ofthe fog. Doubek grew up in Michigan,

Soft-sculpture artist Carole Doubek admiresan ornate uromastyx

"found out we been platonic friends, but demonstrate to the court that another had far more in common than we ever woman trusted him enough to marry him. He explained it to Doubek this way: imagined,as far aslong-term hopesand "You dreams."In the spring of 1989,after a might be able to scareup enough treacherous,wintry visit to Logan, she money to run away,but you won't have receiveda letter saying that he thought enough money to buryyou or your kids they neededto be a family. They married when I find you." A friend secretly in 1991. but mailed her enough money to escape, Thesedays the Doubeks-Carole and it meant leaving behind family heirPaul and the five children-reside in Salt looms, baby pictures, and her studio Lake City. Theirs is the kind of magical equipment. Shetold the kids they could eachbring five items of clothing and three toys. Homeless three months for and living out ofthe back ofa pickup truck, Doubek, with the children in tow, worked construction, shoveledsnow for properfy management firms, and cleanedhouse, until finally settling in Colorado. Toward the end of the next year, Doubek was the victim of a.sexualassault.They were livrng in what she remembers as "a hovel" in the tinv town of ..Someiimes She brought home road kill instead. you wellington. hear on the news about these filed for divorce on her birthday in 1987, women that have killed their "It children or committed suicide. was the nicest thing I ever did for Well, I was at the Point myself." where I could really identifr The promise of a reptile import job with that. I thought this was a lured her next to Cleveland.But there horrible world. There was was no job - only a pathological liar nobody I wanted to raise my with a prison record for attempted mur"and on Doubek'screatures display at the Utah Museum I kids," her voice quavers, der, whose best friends were hit men for of Natural History was ready to take us all out." the Colombian drug cartel. This man Shewas savedby a frog that held Doubek hostage,basically.In a cusexistencethat allows a lobster, originally turned out to be her prince. tody battle for his son, he wanted to purchasedto celebratethe closing on A Christmas card arrived their house,to becomea family pet. from out ofthe past.Paul Doubek'sfanciful lizard with BeavertailCactus home provides Their 3,200-square-foot Doubek, a woodworker sanctuary for, at last count, more than75 and artist in his own right, reptiles and amphibians, among them who ten yearsearlier in iguanas,bearded dragons,basilisks,turLogan, Utah, had repaired tles, toads, geckos,frogs, newts, swifts, an antique rocking chair and ball pythons. Then there are the for her, senther a card parakeets,the Boston terrier, and the pit with little tree frogs on it. "I just bull named SweetiePie. thought that was so Carole Doubek's life and art demoncool. Nobody'd ever sent strate that, true to Voltaire's dictum, me a Christmas card with beauty comes in all shapesand sizes. something that was really Sometimesit has two legs,sometimes personally interesting to four, sometimesit has none; and love, in me on it." all its mutations. manifeststhe indeLetters were written. structible properties of polyester. SLC Lots of them. They had Idaho, Colorado,and New Zealand, where her father helped set up the national park service.Her marriage in 1980and the birth ofthree children during the next sevenyears did nothing to anchor her picaresquelifestyle. Her husband's job offer in the animal science department at USU brought them to Utah for three years.They lived in the original mayor's mansion in Hyde Park. "I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when we moved. I was just about willing to put up with anything to stay in that house." fust about - but not quite. Her husband lost his job and they moved to Arkansas,where a hellish year in the Ozarks ensued.He ruled Doubek's life to the point that she couldn't have her own keys to the house or car. An argument over whether it was too late for her to read the children a bedtime story ended with him trying to throw her out a second-storywindow. When she

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