Tampa artist was 'vibrant, full of life'
TAMPA - People who knew Tampa artist Carolyn Frohsin Heller appreciated her as much for her wit as they did her way with a paintbrush. "You knew you were going to be entertained when you were around her," said her daughter, Janet Heller, of Oakland, Calif. "She liked to tell jokes and had a very large personality." Heller, who was 74, died unexpectedly Monday of a gastrointestinal clot. A painter for more than 40 years, Heller was known for her serigraphs and original acrylic paintings. But her specialty was fabric and decorative art; she would paint lively, original designs on jewelry, guest towels, pillows, aprons, placemats, umbrellas — you name it.Her works have been featured in numerous galleries, art shows and exhibitions. One of her paintings, "Hot Flashes," is on display in Tampa General Hospital's Women's Center. "She was vibrant, full of life, and kind of larger than life, really," said longtime friend and fellow artist, Josette Urso. "She really lived her work." Heller was born in Alexander City, Ala., where her parents, Ralph and Frances Koch Frohsin, founded Frohsin's department store. She attended Stratford Hall in Danville, Va., and the Sophie Newcomb College at Tulane University, where she graduated with a degree in fine arts. She married Edward Heller in 1958, and two years later, the couple moved to Tampa. Heller continued her art studies at the University of South Florida and the Tampa Museum. She later worked with well-known artists such as Ida Kohlmeyer, Syd Solomon and William Pachner. But it wasn't until after her four children went away to college that Heller began to focus on her art full time. "It's bright and it's uplifting, just like she was," said longtime friend and neighbor Adelaide Few, whose home is filled with Heller's work. "When you see Carolyn's work, you know its Carolyn." Heller's accent stood out as much as her work, Few said. "She had an Alabama accent you could cut with a molasses spoon. "Anything she said could never have been said by anyone else in any other way," Few added. "She used every syllable to her advantage. She was a glorious, wonderful dame." Heller was a charter member of the Hillsborough County Public Art Committee and served on the board of the Hillsborough County Arts Council for eight years. "She liked to paint in her studio, which was her garage, with the television on watching 'South Park' or it was 'Beavis and Butt-Head,' " said Art Keeble, executive director of the Arts Council of Hillsborough County. "Carolyn was a little ribald, so things I could tell you would not be printable. But that's what was endearing about her." Heller's passion went beyond the visual arts. She loved good food and often hosted holiday parties at her home, where she loved to make gumbo for guests and tell stories. Heller is survived by four children: Alan Heller, Emily Heller, Janet Heller and Fran Heller; five grandchildren and two brothers. A celebration of her life is planned for October at Tampa Theatre.
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