Musings on art and life.
I’ve recently found myself in a very interesting situation; I’ve had to temporarily move out of my room, to accommodate my grandparents who are visiting from South Africa for a few weeks. The question of where I was going to go was only really answered the weekend before they arrived. A neighbour has an apartment in the retirement complex in the next town, and since her mother moved out, it has been sitting empty. She has very kindly offered it as a place for me to stay.
A couple of days after I moved in, I was interrogated (very politely) by one of the residents who seems to hold court in the main lounge on a nightly basis. Who am I? Where am I staying? How long? etc. After responding to, and agreeing with the initial concern regarding strangers wandering the corridors, with the assurance that my (other) grandparents also live in the building, I seem to have begun a tentative friendship with my new neighbours. A day later, when I became the youngest resident (probably ever) to accidentally lock myself out of my room without my electronic key card, they all commiserated with me as I awaited the nurse to let me back in. For a few minutes I became the fly on the wall, as they chattered and gossiped in their circle of comfy chairs. In those few minutes, I learned a great deal about the goings on in the building (including some details pertaining to a certain lady’s aversion to wearing underwear) and shared a few laughs with my new, good natured friends. That night I walked away with an invitation to bingo the following day, which I was sadly unable to accept because I would still be at work.
Since then, I seem to have fallen into a pattern of coming in from work at 10pm, and having a quick chat before I head back up to my own space for the rest of the night. Unfortunately, while there is wi-fi in the building, it does not reach my apartment, so I have to sit in the main lounge to pick up the signal. One night after heading upstairs to collect my lap top, I returned to find the final few stragglers from the evenings chat session still there. Not for the first time, while listening to them regale tales from their youth; I was struck by the fact of just how young and unwise I still am, and just how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to know all four of my grandparents.
My recent exposure to so many people of such an older generation has led me back down a path of enquiry we were challenged with in secondary school art class. We were tasked with creating a dual portrait of “young and old”, which resulted in a large painting of my great-grandfather and myself, copied from a photograph taken at Christmas dinner when I was about 6. The challenge of painting his wrinkles kept me occupied for hours. Again, while in college, I explored age in the the form of textiles and fabric manipulation to create wrinkles. During the research phase, I encountered portraits of elderly people that had depth, dignity and humour seldom found in images of younger subjects. It’s to this end that I decided to follow up with some research into artists and photographers capturing images of the elderly. While I am in a rather humorous situation at present, I’ve had the additional benefit of being reminded of the beauty of wisdom and age, that no young, fresh-faced model could ever hope to convey.
Karsten Thormaehlen’s series “Happy at 100” is a beautiful example of elderly elegance and wisdom in photography. You can view more photographs and details about the project here.
I just came across Collette’s blog. She’s a pretty talented painter, as is evident in this charming painting of an elderly lady wearing a tiara.
None of these images belong to me, and all link back to the artist’s website or blog.
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