Del Mar artist selected for membership in National Association of Women Artists, Inc.

By Diane Y. Welch

The National Association of Women Artists, Inc. (NAWA) has selected Del Mar fine artist Karla Leopold to be inducted into its historic membership on Nov. 21 in New York.

The piece that brought Leopold to the attention of the jurors is titled “Vanishing Cliffs” and is one of a series of plein air pastel and watercolor landscapes that she has created close to her home in Del Mar. The artwork, along with that of other new members, will hang in the NAWA Gallery on Fifth Ave. in Manhattan until the end of the month.

“It’s such a big honor to be selected,” said Leopold, who will attend the late afternoon induction reception with her daughter Keegan Leopold Nordan. “The more I find out about the organization the more thrilled I am.”

Established in 1889, the NAWA was the first professional women’s art organization in the U.S. It was founded by five women artists who were barred from full participation in the male-dominated Society of American Artists. Originally named the Women’s Art Club, the organization was renamed the National Association of Women Artists in 1941.

As a member Leopold joins the noble ranks of such famed artists as Mary Cassatt and Alice Neel. The documentation of the exhibit will be archived within the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and more. “Some day my great, great grandchildren could visit the Smithsonian and see proof of my artwork,” Leopold said.

Leopold submitted three pieces selected from her recent body of work that captures the local disappearing landscape. Her favored locations include local beaches and the mountains. Notably, the coastal sandstone cliffs have visibly disappeared since Leopold started this engagement a year-and-a-half ago. Jurors chose a piece for the exhibition that depicts the Del Mar bluffs.

Another benefit of membership in NAWA is the eligibility to submit work to other prestigious national shows, said Leopold, who has been invited to exhibit at the Robeson Gallery at Penn State University. She is submitting pieces from her “Visions of the Mind” series; one will be chosen for the gallery.

The series includes a piece crafted from a knitted hat that has derogatory words for mental sickness spilling out of it – which represents the destructive verbiage often used to describe those who are mentally ill – and a piece created around an image that a child had given her through Leopold’s work done during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Leopold is also a licensed art therapist and a marriage and family child therapist, although she is not currently practicing.

While active in the field of therapy her specialty was to work with children of trauma. Leopold aided child victims of Katrina for three years and recognizes that one of her roles is to bring darkness to light. Creating art after trauma is one way to help children cope with post-trauma stresses and serves to bring lightness into their lives, she said.

Leopold’s own art embraces all her creative engagements, whether it be her textiles, her pastels, her paintings, her sculptures or her assemblages. Rather than focus on one aspect of art she dances through many types of creative expression and her work covers a broad spectrum.

“Some people think that art should be more focused or one complete body of work but I don’t know that that works for me,” said Leopold, who told how she said to her husband, “You know I think I need to do just one thing.” To which he replied, “I’ve known you almost your whole life, Karla, and you are never happy just doing one thing!”

For now Leopold is immersed in her plein air landscapes. The work is refreshing and helps lighten her up, she said. “I am also fascinated with all the changes that take place around us. It is my way of documenting Mother Nature in her glory as she formulates how to adjust to environmental transformations.”

Visit to find out more about Leopold’s work. To find out more about NAWA, visit