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.
Beatrice 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 Resting Place” 2009. charred paper sewn with bronze wire, canvas, acrylic, branches, bird. 22x24x41″ ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson
“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.
Some 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” 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)
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.
“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…
“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…