The Evolution of an Unlikely Artist

I recently attended the IAGG 2017 Conference on Aging and was privileged to speak at the Age Stage – a joint effort by the Gerontological Society of America and the National Center for Creative Aging.  The conference explored every aspect of the research being done on aging but for me the heart, the human face of all the research, lay in the Age Stage.  It was an engaging, exhilarating illustration of creative aging in action—a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit.

I presented an overview of Mom’s journey in art – from her very first painting to the last.  Because I am technically inept, I am unable to share the full Power Point here, so here are the highlights of 8 years.

In 2008, my father and the love of Mom’s life died.  to keep her occupied, we took her to the Elderwise painting class.  We had no expectations.

Mom’s first painting – She hadn’t painted since grade school and thought it was a childish waste of time.  But wow…who knew?

At first, when she saw a flower she painted a flower.  Then the transformations began.  This was an orange gourd.  I call it the Orange Meanie because the face looks just like a Blue Meanie from Yellow Submarine.

Year 2 – I loved to see how she saw things.  A bouquet of flowers became a clown.  A zucchini – a dragon.  Increasingly, the paintings were perfectly symmetrical and tended to have a face.  (We’re not sure who Billy is.)


Year 3.  A sunflower

Year 4.  Then to my untutored eye, she seemed to lose interest, her paintings lost focus (but what do I know?)

So I played with her before the next class, singing, marching, walking and talking.  The painting changed.

So I continued – becoming a more active partner in her life.

Daffodils became serpents.

Year 5.  Oh so many…love them all.

Year 6.  I am woman – hear me roar.

Year 7.  The ink spilled.  “Oh never mind,” she said and made this.  To me it looks like a bird hungrily eyeing an insect.

She and dad were friends for 74 years.  This was her painting of sand dollars on a blue cloth.  I think this was the day she told me that she had a long conversation with him and was marrying again…”to the same one.”

Year 8.  She was losing interest but my sister Jeanne, an artist visiting from New York, got her interested in the shape of apples.  This is her last painting.

Miss you Mom.