In a recent article in the Financial Times, journalist Rachel Spence discussed a topic rarely mentioned in the art world: the OWAs; Older. Women. Artist. I want to applaud Ms. Spence for her wonderful piece as it shed light on a rather unexplored subject.
This brilliant article explored the lives of several female artists whom are currently exhibiting at the Frieze Art Fair in London. Artists including Letizia Battaglia, Teresa Burga, Geta Bratescu, and Carmen Herrera - who had until now seldom found acknowledgment outside their own countries - are gaining international recognition for their work. The interesting twist, however, is that these artists are all in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and even 90s. Their art is one with depth and feeling, which has evolved through a lifetime of experience, and it has something to say which is worth listening to.
I am an OWA. Although I have been painting my entire life, it was not until my late 60s that I began exhibiting my paintings. My life has always been one of an artist, but I was never able to fully devote time to my craft; and looking back, I am grateful for all the life lessons I had then, because it has shaped the artist I am now. My travels around the world and exchanges with all of life's trials and tribulations have molded my work. I have witnessed the determination and will of individuals and communities to triumph in the face of often seemingly insurmountable odds. Their strength of mind and resolve are a continual lesson to me - one that helps shape the development of my own art.
As an OWA, I feel blessed for having lived so much because it has allowed me to translate my first-hand experiences onto the canvas. I see my work, and the work of all OWAs, as documentary. We record the frailty and strength of the human spirit, and in every new piece of art we create, we are able to instill a lifetime of experience. It is an expression of continued vitality, one of depth and feeling, which has evolved through generations of life-long learning and practice. Our work is not just a reflection of the past, but also a declaration of a vibrant and energetic future full of growth. I think that richness is something worth paying attention to.
"If", a poem by Rudyard Kipling, illustrates what I believe to be an OWA: "If you can fill the unforgiving minute/with 60 seconds' worth of distance run/yours is the Earth and everything that's in it..." We have and will continue to live life to the fullest. Our art is a blessing to all because it shows how strong the human spirit -- the woman's spirit -- can be. We have survived wars, discrimination, stereotyping, and oppression, but through it all we have endured, turning hardship into something beautiful. I encourage everyone who aspires to create, from young upstarts to OWAs like me, to keep pursuing your passions. Keep creating, working and learning; and always be proud of what you have overcome for the time will arrive when your gift will be recognized by the world.