Thursday, June 15, 2017

Coming to Art Late in Life


In healing from my second knee replacement lately, I haven't been able to stop thinking about my last workshop here in my studio at the end of April. It was the most intense group of women I have yet had the privilege to teach. Our lunchtime conversations immediately delved into a depth that I hadn't experienced before.

There is a passion in people who come to art later in life, a richness, a depth that is earned through living long enough. They share a strength of purpose, a deep need to connect with their creative souls.


My workshops are filled with older adults, by far the majority are women, who are generally in the age range from 50-75. These are baby boomers, who are redefining old age and creating a new term which some call Second Adulthood. Their children are grown and gone, their parents have passed on, and they are retired or are near retirement. All of a sudden, they have freedom they have never had before. This is especially true for women who, in this generation, have fulfilled the role of caretaker, no matter if they had other jobs. They put themselves last on the totem pole of the family. This is now their time.




They come with stories to tell. Stories about how their kindergarten teacher held up their work in class and said, "This is an example of bad art." They have carried that criticism deep inside for their whole lives.  There are stories of how their parents discouraged them from becoming artists or how they never had any confidence in themselves. Stories of how art helped to heal them from trauma or how art helped them find themselves after devoting their lives to others.




I'm thinking of connections with the book I am currently reading called All the Good Pilgrims by Robert Ward that he wrote after walking the Camino. He shared stories of the pilgrims he met along the way. Ward often asked others what their purpose was in walking the Camino.  At various points on the journey,  he asked himself the same question. It bothered him that he could find no clear answer within himself.

He stayed one night in a nunnery in the city of Leon. During the day, Ward had been pondering again the question of what makes a pilgrim with others he had become friends with on the journey. After Vespers at the nunnery, one of the nuns stayed behind to chat. Her simple reply when Ward asked her the question was, "A Pilgrim is someone who is looking for something."

I wonder if artists aren't pilgrims. Looking for something. Coming at last to art.