It’s no secret that we’re all different. Some of us settle in quiet retirement and enjoy time that we did not have earlier. Vacations, family visits and hobbies are enjoyed with more flexibility. Yet there is a unique group of older New York City artists who refuse to retire because they have a passionate need to be vital with their art. Their lifetime focus has not changed; their daily routines have altered only to adjust to their physical demands.
Supported by the Pollack-Krasner Foundation and the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging, Joan Jeffri’s project “ Above Ground: Information on Artists III: Special Focus New York City Aging Artists” exemplifies the creative stamina of these individuals whose average age was 73. Joan states “The resilience of artists in relation to their art is a testimony to old age. All the artists we interviewed visited their studios on a frequent and sometimes daily basis, even if it took 1.5 hours to walk the three blocks to the studio. When the medium became too taxing—such as large-scale sculpture or paintings, not one artist talked of giving up art; s/he simply changed the medium.”
Many artists have experienced tremendous success in their later years.
Grandma Moses didn’t start to paint until the age of 67 when her husband died. She said, “If I didn’t start painting, I would have had to raise chickens.”
Beatrice Wood, a leading ceramic artist, did some of her best work in her nineties and lived to be 105.
Al Hirschfeld, at 93, had four major exhibitions of his work and the following year created a wonderful self-portrait.
It is their life drive to be creative that propels these artists forward despite their years and despite their physical ailments. Grandma Moses said, “Life is what we make of it, always has been, always will be”.