I’m still aging! The spots on my wrist and right hand have become more pronounced. I find myself reading articles all the way through about reversing aging’s effects. What once was an esoteric topic is suddenly upfront and personal. I think of my grandparents, long gone, almost daily. If I want to face this as calmly as they did, I’d better change my attitude.
I decided to look for role models in the artistic community. Last week I went again to The Art of Aging exhibit currently shown at the Minneapolis Central Library. The first time I visited, I focused on Lucy Rose Fischer and Karen Searle’s works. Now I wanted to see what Ms Goodman and Ms Stadler had to say about aging.
Bette Globus Goodman installed huge fabric panel prints of her photographs that lightly respond to a breeze. The image that struck me the most was “Leah: A Woman’s Measurement of Time.” This woman, with years reflected in her eyes, looks intently at you from above. Because of the movement of the fabric, the image seems alive, making the experience a little unsettling. I felt like a fish on a hook, trying to wriggle away from her intensity.
Another large fabric panel was entitled “Kathy: Cancer is Probably the Most Unfunny Thing in the World.” Ms Goodman was asked by Kathy to document her ongoing experiences with cancer. Like Leah, she looks directly at the viewer, with wide open eyes. Again, there’s a direct connection that I can’t avoid.
I think that’s Ms Goodman’s true gift. Whether taking candid, sensitive shots of elderly mothers and their adult daughters, or hands that are wrinkled from age, she manages to express each person’s love of life. These are images of truth, not despair or grief. That’s a tremendous feat, when one’s subjects are deep and difficult as these.
Jody Stadler works in charcoal, pastel and acrylic. She moved to the Twin Cities from Ames, IA, primarily for the art connections available here, leaving friends and family to pursue her passion. (I’m originally from Iowa, so any reference to the state gets my attention.)
I was fascinated by “Monie, the Pianist at 100,” the first of four annual pieces of her aunt (great aunt?) Maureen. It continues through “Monie at 103, in her Rose Recliner.” The woman’s hands, carefully resting in front of her, are the hands of a musician. Her eyes meet the viewer’s from the side. Though she’s a century old, something in her manner says that she knows a great deal and that we’d do well to remember it.
She also created two provocative pieces, also in charcoal, called “Annie, Angry” and “Annie, Resigned.” This woman had a Do-Not-Resuscitate order on her medical records, which wasn’t honored. Ms Stadler gave the woman’s frustration a voice and a wider audience through these works. It’s a strong example of how art can keep an issue alive and help others see the emotional cost of those who can not fight for themselves.
Not all of the art is about women. There are many pieces that feature men facing age, including “The Mathematician at 80: My Bill.” There’s also a great deal of whimsy in the exhibit, as in “The Great Arsenic Lobster.”
This was a helpful exhibit to me. If nothing else, I learned that others are as surprised as I was by the reality of aging. More importantly, it shows a way to use my art to advantage. Maybe we can reclaim a position of honor and respect that elders used to have. It’s as hopeful a thought as I’ve had in months. Maybe ageism can even be inspiring?
Here’s to my grandparents and all of the other elders who continue to pave the way… –Chris
(Logistics: the entrance at the top of the escalator isn’t open. Try entering through the 2nd floor of the main library.)