Friday, April 23, 2010

Is there an age limit on this?

I often listen to the University of Arkansas student run radio station on my drive from the studio to home. The other night I heard this exchange between two DJs:

DJ 1: Hey, the band Blue Oyster Cult is playing at the Arkansas Music Pavilion on May 22nd—we should check it out.

DJ 2: Blue Oyster Cult? Are they still around? Man, they must be older than dirt…

Hmmm. I own their first album. So what does that make me?

I looked it up—almost as old as dirt. Sigh.

So this got me to wondering about age and creativity. I will admit that on bad days I worry that it is too late for me and I will never achieve the goals I have set for myself as an artist. There’s too much to learn, too much practice time to make up. And in our youth obsessed culture, who cares about an artist that’s older than dirt?

On good days I realize that every layout and logo and billboard and nightlight and kitchen tool and piece of dinnerware I have designed, as well as all the classes I have taken, clients I've dealt with, threads I have woven, stitches I’ve sewn—not to mention all the art I have seen in museums and galleries—informs the work I do today. All that experience makes me the artist I am—and that is unique and good.

Hopefully the good days outnumber the bad...

For inspiration I give you the story of artist Carmen Herrera, who sold her first painting at the age of 84 and now at 89 is collected internationally. When I read this story in the NY Times I clipped it out, saved it. Somehow I knew I would need it someday.

Older than dirt, take that.

So I leave you with a recent video of the Blue Oyster Cult. By the way, you have to play these songs very loud. So loud in fact, that your mother comes storming into your room demanding you turn it down because the mirrors in the downstairs bathroom are rattling and she just can’t take anymore…


  1. This post makes me smile...our culture simply sets us up to feel 'out of date' and used up...I don't go there.
    I like to think of aging as saging. And I always keep in mind how mysterious is the creative it is always leading us to the next adventure and that's what it is all about.
    I saw the article in the NYTimes on Carmen and I also saved it...great story.

    See you in class;-)

  2. Jennifer, no matter how old we get, creativity will never leave us. I work with a few individuals who are victims of Alzheimer's. The research I have read about memory loss is that creativity never leaves even though our memories have. So, when you feel "older than dirt", don't give up hope. Another lady I have met started painting when she was 80. She is now 82 and paints beautiful pictures!

  3. Valerie, Thank you for your inspiration! To think my memories reside in a different place than my creativity is such food for must be a strong and safe place if Alzheimer's can't touch it. This feels empowering!

  4. Jennifer - I loved this post and the music - Ive never heard blue oyster b4 (I like them - thanx 4 sharing)but if theyre older than dirt - the videos are either incredibly ancient or I am like older than a mountain! Hmm scary thought.
    I have to say I've also been through the whole is it too late for me thing as well and that probably stopped me doing a lot more than i could of until I decided to let that one go. Now I look at my art as a gift to the world that it wouldn't have if I wasn't here - and that is kind of amazing when you stop to think about it. And of course applies to all of us - not just moi.