#12. The Last Creative Third (or 1/4, as the case may be)

 piece of pie

If life is a pie, mine is at least two-thirds gone; no way of telling how much of it is left, of course, but it’s a pretty good pie, all things considered. Not to be cliché, but we’ve all heard that this aging thing is not for sissies. Turning sixty is not like turning 59, no matter what they try to tell you. So, I’m toughening up. And as an artist, I (once again) decided to reinvent what I’m doing, at 60. Women artists reinventing themselves is not uncommon. One of my absolute favorites is Beatrice Wood, who, in her late 30’s after years of dance, theater, art, travel, love and passionate liaisons with fascinating people, including Marcel Duchamp, found her true creative path through ceramics. Her pie was a wonderful, rich and large one; she lived passionately until 1998, aged 105, creating extraordinary art until the end. She was known as”the mama of Dada”, and the character of Rose in the film “Titanic” was based on Wood. An incredible life story.

I shock myselfBeatrice Wood’s autobiography. Best title ever.

When I turned sixty last spring, I had no idea where my work was going. I knew that I was pretty much finished with the work I’d been doing for the previous eight years, which was metaphorical, emotion-driven, symbolistic, and based on personal narrative. 

unsafe hanging72“Unsafe Resting Place”  2009. charred paper sewn with bronze wire, canvas, acrylic, branches, bird. 22x24x41″ ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson 

my message

“Getting the Message”  2010. graphite, acrylic, gouache on paper. 38×50″ 

©2014 Karen Rand Anderson 

Enough, already. “Let it go”, said my inner wisdom. “Move on. Do something healing. Like, paint landscapes, of places you love, that are beautiful.” OK, I said.  I will. Georgia said something similar, and through her passion, drive and creative commitment,  immersed herself completely in her beloved New Mexico landscape until her pie was gone, at age 99. More about Georgia O’Keefe here.   (I can never get enough) Like anything newly begun, I’ve  having an awkward time trying to get to where I envision my current work to be going. I had a show in the fall of 2013 of some of these new paintings, and.. well, let’s just say, the work wasn’t ready to show yet. Nevertheless, I put it out there, for better or for worse. Live and learn.

krause showSome of the new landscape work, Krause Gallery, Providence RI, September, 2013

One can spend time & energy going back over the would-haves, could-haves, should-haves.. hashing over the choices that were made in art + life, (not to mention relationships), but it doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s far more productive to stop looking back, and focus on going forward.

not looking back“Not Looking Back” 2010. graphite + gouache on paper, sewn onto linen. 32×38″

© 2014 Karen Rand Anderson 

One more extraordinary woman artist:  German-born Meret Oppenheim (1913-1985.) Meret was the “enfant terrible” of the surrealists, moving to Paris at age 18 and connecting with artists Hans Arp,  Andre Breton, and Alberto Giacometti  among others, including Duchamp. This  December 2013 interview with Meret’s niece, Lisa Wenger shares wonderful details and anecdotes. (With thanks to Hyperallergic)

oppenheim book

I was gifted this incredible book  by my professors when I graduated from my MFA program at Johnson State College/Vermont Studio Center, in 2010.

Oppenheim was also a muse for Man Ray,who did a 1933 series of nude photographs of her.  (Scandalous…) Sculptor, conceptual and installation artist, painter, photographer, Meret made art until her death, at age 72. As for moi, I’m just going ahead now with these paintings of place, season, energy and light, reflections of what I’ve seen and where I’ve been and how I feel about it all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Late Light on the Marsh I” 2013. mixed media on canvas, 30×30″. ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson 

Which is not to say that I won’t be doing ephemeral sculptural installation and mixed media stuff again…

chairs“Forgiveness Bower” sculpture and “A Tentative Embrace” drawing, from my show at Cate Charles Gallery, Stonington, CT, 2010  ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson 

I just never settle for one medium, one concept, one process, one creative endeavor. My life as an artist would be much easier and well-established if I could focus on one thing and do it well, but — I can’t. So be it. In the meantime, the pie is constantly being nibbled at. Every so often, I think about that, and wonder how much (or how little) is left of it. There is no sense in worrying about it. But I find that I feel a sense of urgency these days, to get into the studio as much as possible, to get lots of work done, and to be patient with myself. The energy level is not what it used to be. So– whatever gets done will get done. And that’s OK with me.


Postscript:  Interesting to note that all three of these incredible women artists did not choose motherhood, as I did; they chose their work instead. They sure as hell made the most of their last thirds. Good inspiration for a sixty-year-old starting over…

16 thoughts on “#12. The Last Creative Third (or 1/4, as the case may be)

    • dear Catherine… you are, as ever, truly remarkable. And I sincerely thank you for sending me to that timely (no pun intended) article. Love it! Light in the tunnel, so to speak…And thank you also for following my newly-hatched blog. Taking flight with this endeavor is a true challenge for me, and finding inspiration through your extraordinary mind[marrow] is helping enormously.

      I need to tell you I first found your work when you wrote your heart-centered and very moving post about the tragic death of my dear friend Anitra Haendel, and others… Still hard to believe she has gone to the ether-sphere. I knew Francesca, as well, at RISD in the 70’s. The [art] world. Life, death, moving on.

      So it goes, and thanks again. … lovely to be connected with you!

      xox kra


  1. Karen, this was such a powerful post for me, too. Last fall, I turned 50, and it finally occurred to me that there was a finite amount of time left in my life. How long? I don’t know. But, I should not let things that do not matter distract me or hold me back from what I need to explore. My best friend died four years ago at age 45 in a tragic, freak hiking accident. That experience changed me profoundly. I’m still sorting it all out, and allowing my creative work to help me get to a place of healing.


    • Karen… thanks for this heartfelt comment. So, so sad about your friend… It’s difficult for me to comprehend, and my heart goes out to you. Your statement about not being held back, and going forward in your creative journey as healing is a big subject for all of us. It’s what keeps me going as well.


  2. While I am a little younger then you and have chosen motherhood right along with art, your words still do resonate with me. I too work in many mediums, which I am just starting to accept about myself. I too feel time is short and feel I am in a bit of a reinvention stage myself. It’s good to be reminded to just keep at it and keep growing. We are all in this together! None of us really know how much pie we have left that’s why it’s important to enjoy every bit we take now. Thank you!!


    • Thank you Alisha..! Yes indeed, we are in this together. Actually I might have not made it clear in my last paragraph but I am a mom; my two girls are in their early and late twenties, and both artists. I read some of your posts about adopting your two darling ones. What an incredible journey, and how wonderful that you’ve kept such a beautiful record of it.. They will get to read all about the details when they are older! So yes, you have an amazing life, and have done something so incredible by becoming a mom. And you are such a wonderful artist and writer. Here’s to keeping on-keeping on. May your pie be delicious and large..! xo karen


  3. Karen,

    I LOVE your posts and the way you write. Brava.


    Nancy Egol Nikkal

    On 1/25/14, 9:37 AM, “cleaning up the studio” wrote:

    > Karen Rand Anderson posted: “ If life is a pie, mine is at least two-thirds > gone; no way of telling how much of it is left, of course, but it’s a pretty > good pie, all things considered. Not to be clich, but we’ve all heard that > this aging thing is not for sissies. Turning sixty is” >


  4. Karen …
    Thank you for your well connected, referenced, and casual yet powerful post. Perhaps it’s because I, too, recently turned 60, never had the motherly urge and find my creative impulses and mediums hard to isolate to one medium, that this post spoke to me so strongly. Often I feel scattered because I don’t stick to any one medium or subject and have to remind myself that the secret to life (or pie eating) is enjoying the passing of time (or flavor and texture of the pie). My life is really for my personal enjoyment. I have no grandiose idea that by creating my art I will become well known, although an admiring public does feel good and is appreciated. Remembering that my principal goal is fun, that there really are no rules, and in a hundred years all new people, makes doing what I feel like doing art-wise and life-wise in any given moment one delicious choice.

    Here’s to the next third or quarter.


    • Oh Carol, what a wonderful comment. I am SO glad you find meaning here. This is the reason I’m putting myself out there, I suppose– to connect and hopefully have some sort of meaningful impact.. like you, I have to remind myself about the secret to life, and the pie. (with thanks to James Taylor, too) I’ve been mulling over what it means to “become well known” (or not) and what really matters.. another blog post coming up. ! I love what you’ve shared here, thanks so much. All the best to you in creative solidarity, and delicious choice..!! xo kra


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