AGE IS A THING
April 15, 2021 - By Joy Reed Belt
Shane Scribner, "Karissa Fadin," Oil on Panel, 24 x 24 in., $3,000
Most of my life I have felt like I was the wrong age at the wrong time. As a child I really wanted to be older than I actually was. Why did I have to wait until I was six years old to start regular school when I could already could read and was as tall as the other kids? Why did I have to wait until my teens to have certain privileges when most of my friends were already teenagers? If I could learn to drive and promised to be very careful, why did I have to wait until I was sixteen to get a Driver’s License? For years I consciously tried to look and act older. To me, older was better! Much better!
Mark Edward Harris, "Eyes: Cotillion Series, Pacific Palisades, CA," Silver Gelatin Print, 11 x 14 in., $850
After graduating from High School I took a gap year to work in the design field. I definitely tried to look and act as old as my colleagues since most of them were college graduates. However, when I entered college I wanted to be a couple of years younger like my classmates. When I completed my Bachelor’s degree and taught high school for a couple of years, I decided to go back to school and get a Master’s Degree. At that point the age thing seemed to correct itself. In graduate school the ages of my classmates were all over the place. After graduate school I taught in a Junior College before moving to Oklahoma City to accept a position with the Oklahoma State Arts Council as an Arts Administrator. I continued to feel age appropriate when at age 35 I decided to return to the university to get my doctorate. I more or less continued to feel age appropriate until my mid 40’s.
Doug Hoke, "Heels," Archival Inkjet Print, 10 1/2 x 13 1/2 in., $300
Turning 50 was really a biological and mental shock. I was old! Age became my personal enemy! I became reluctant to state my specific age. For instance, when my CVS pharmacist would ask for my date of birth, I would quickly cough hoping my account would pop up on their computer screen before I had to answer. When someone would ask my age I usually countered with “How old do you think I am?” Or, “Probably about the same age as you.” When I was given forms to fill out that asked for date of birth I would put the month and day, but omit my birth year. As time continued to fly by, my purported age became more and more situational.
Catherine Adams, "The Acute Charm of Ruin & Development, Building 7.2 (Malecon), Havana, Cuba," Chromogenic Print, Edition of 3, 36 x 24 in., $1,900
Unexpectedly my dissonance with age corrected itself again with the advent of my last birthday. Becoming 80 was a biological and mental shock, but this time I didn’t feel age was my enemy. I was comfortable with this trusted companion. In fact, now I am certifiably an older adult, I feel proud to have come this far. Hey, I am alive and still standing and functioning at a pretty high level. In retrospect I am pleased with the things I have been able to accomplish and excited about the future and the things I still want to achieve. Older has become better!
Catherine Allen, "Tropical Water Lily," Vandyke Brownprint, 16 x 20 in., $350
As an art dealer I work with artists every day and am very sympathetic with how they experience aging as it relates to their art journey. Often their reputation is tied to their chronological age. Artists can be categorized as a “beginning artist,” an “emerging artist,” or a “developing artist.” Being placed in one of these categories has an enormous effect on pricing and the perceived value of the art. Does the quality of an artist’s output increase or decrease when they become “mature artists?” Since the quality of their work usually increases with experience, becoming older and having more time to develop their unique style could be good for them too. Artists, like the rest of us, benefit from acquired knowledge and life experiences. In order to paint those experiences meaningfully one must assimilate them. Some of the mature artists I know worry that as they become older their skill level will diminish or they will run out of things to paint. That’s rubbish! Aging creatively is a beautiful thing. Older really is better, much better! But, if it's okay with you, I think I'll stay 80 for awhile!
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