Luminous: Carolyn Young Hisel, A 50 Year Retrospective

Amanda Harper


A beautiful retrospective art exhibit shines a light on a well-known Kentucky artist’s prolific career two years after her passing.

Lexington native Carolyn Young Hisel had her work exhibited throughout the eastern United States, including more than 20 one-person exhibits. Her art consisted of a diverse range of media, spanning over 50 years. Her early pieces featured vibrant abstractions but as her work matured, she began to focus more on the human relationship with the spiritual realm.

Carolyn herself said, “I ask the questions shared by every struggling human soul: questions about virtue and evil; guilt and innocence; the meaning of suffering and loss; redemption; revelation; love and transcendent joy; hope and despair.”

Carolyn Hisel graduated from Henry Clay High School and the University of Kentucky. She and her husband moved to England for two years, where she taught art in London’s primary school system. They moved to Malta for six months before returning permanently to Lexington in 1966. Within two years, she was raising two sons and working as a commercial illustrator and fine artist. She painted hundreds of canvases over her lifetime, many featuring the lush palette of her Kentucky surroundings. She passed away in May of 2017 at the age of 75.

Luminous: Carolyn Young Hisel, A 50 Year Retrospective opened April 6th at the Headley-Whitney Museum. The opening reception included talks by artist Rita Zimmerman, poet Mary Ann Taylor Hall and Jennifer Roberts, Professor of Art at Harvard University.

Her son, Dan Hisel, has been putting together a book of her work, produced by Iota Books of Lexington. This Light, This Rining: A Fifty- Year Retrospective of the Work of Carolyn Hisel is available through the Carolyn Young Hisel website,

The family and her friends share the hope that this retrospective exhibit will provide viewers with a greater appreciation for Carolyn’s contributions to Kentucky’s art and culture. Her faith, introspection and beautiful colors lend her works a timeless appeal that will touch hearts for many generations to come.

Luminous: Carolyn Young Hisel, A 50 Year Retrospective is on display at the Headley-Whitney Museum through June 16th and viewed with ticketed admission to the museum. Tickets: adults $8; seniors, students, AAA and military $8; children 10 and under FREE. Learn more at