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Carolyn Mary Kleefeld
Born Carolyn Mary Taper
Catford, London, England
Occupation Poet, author, artist
Alma mater UCLA
Notable awards Pushcart Prize (Nominee)

Carolyn Mary Kleefeld (née Taper) is an English-American author, poet, and visual artist. She is the author of twenty-five books, has a line of fine art cards, and has had numerous gallery and museum awards and exhibitions between 1981 and the present, in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other major cities.


Early life

Kleefeld was born in Catford, South London, the youngest daughter of Amelia (née Lewis) and Mark Taper. Her family was Jewish. At the age of four, she moved to Long Beach and then Santa Monica, California. She attended the Westlake School for Girls. She studied art and psychology at UCLA.


Kleefeld is the author of twenty-five books. She has created an extensive and diverse body of paintings and drawings, ranging in style from romantic figurative to abstract. Her art is featured internationally in galleries, museums, private collections, and multimedia presentations.

Personal life

Kleefeld currently lives in Big Sur, California. Kleefeld is also known by her married name, Caroyln Campagna Kleefeld. On Valentine’s Day 2017, she wed David Campagna. Campagna died three weeks later from a long-term illness. She had previously been married to Tony Kleefeld, known professionally as Tony Travis.

Poetry and writings

Kleefeld's writings include poetry, prose, and art. Her work has been translated into Korean, Romanian, Japanese, Italian, Sicilian, Chinese, Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Russian, Spanish, Catalan, Greek, and Persian.


Kleefeld’s artwork has appeared in numerous galleries and museums.

The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, exhibited a retrospective of her paintings and drawings and published an exhibition catalog, Carolyn Mary Kleefeld: Visions from Big Sur, with art from the exhibit and a commentary by museum curator and director, Michael Zakian.

Other solo exhibitions include “30 years of Abstract Visions” at the Gallery at the Ventana Inn in Big Sur, California (2014), “The Divine Kiss” at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in Santa Barbara, California (2013) and Shreveport, Louisiana (2014), “Art, Poetry, and Reflective Prose”at the Walter Lee Avery Gallery at the Seaside, California City Hall (2002), “Parallel Universes: Visions for the 21st Century” at the Stowitts Museum & Library in Pacific Grove, California (2001), “A Retrospective from Abstract to Neo-Impressionism” at the corporate offices of “333 Bush Street,” in San Francisco, California (1999), and a poetry reading and art exhibit at Gallerie Illuminati in Santa Monica, California (1990). Kleefeld's art has also been exhibited at The American Jewish University, Los Angeles (2016), The B.J. Spoke Gallery, Huntington, New York (2014), The Old Courthouse Art Center, Woodstock, Illinois (2014), The New York Hall of Science, New York, NY (2013), the Alexandria Museum of Art, Alexandria, Louisiana (2013), Woman Made Gallery, Chicago, Illinois (2001), University of California-Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California (2001), National Arts Club in New York, New York (2001), and Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, New York, among others.

Kleefeld’s art is in the permanent collections, among others, of The Downey Museum of Art, The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, The Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur, and The Dylan Thomas Theatre, in Swansea, Wales.

Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum

In 2019, Kleefeld gifted $10 million to the California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), which was by far the largest donation received by the school. Consequently, the University Art Museum was renamed the Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum later that year. Months later, Kleefeld donated 120 of her own artworks to the institution’s permanent collection.

After undergoing a two-year-long expansion and renovation, the museum re-opened on February 12, 2022, and now holds 178 of Kleefeld's drawings and paintings as part of its permanent collection. In addition, the University houses Kleefeld's literary archives, and an endowment will fund annual scholarships for the College of the Arts, an interdisciplinary lecture series at the university, a student intern, and museum program enhancement.

After the opening of the Kleefeld exhibit at CSULB, Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight described Kleefeld's work as "frankly terrible - by far the worst I’ve seen on display in a serious exhibition venue, public or private, for profit or nonprofit, in years." An anonymous professor at the university also noted: “If that was a student applicant’s portfolio, they wouldn’t get admitted to the program."

Awards and honors

  • Nominations for The Pushcart Prize, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
  • World Poetry Empowered Poet Award / Vancouver, Canada, 2014
  • Il Meleto Di Guido Gozanno Award for Poetry / Torino, Italy, 2014
  • First place, Short Story Contest: 101 Words / Monterey County Weekly / Monterey, CA, 2006
  • First Place, Light, Space & Time Art Competition: Abstraction, Judge’s Award for Excellence, John Nichols Gallery, Santa Paula, CA, 2001
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