Vicki Clough Curates

Musings on art and life.

The Beauty of Age

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.

Erwin H. (*1909) Berlin, 2011 Photograph by Karsten Thormaehlen for the project “Happy at 100”

Erika E. (*1910) 2011 Berlin Photograph by Karsten Thormaehlen

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.

Tiara Lady, 2010, painting Collette Schildkraut

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.

Drawing of elderly Lady, by Sanchita Islam as part of the “Old meets Young” project

Painting of elderly Bengali Lady, by Sanchita Islam

Sanchita Islam created some beautiful artwork as part of her “Old meets Young” project. You can view more images, and read more about the project here, and here.

None of these images belong to me, and all link back to the artist’s website or blog.

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One comment on “The Beauty of Age

  1. onelifethislife
    April 21, 2013

    This was a wonderful heartwarming post. I also loved the photos. Thanks for sharing this.

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Vicki Clough

Vicki Clough

Vicki is an independent curator and craftsperson with a focus on socially engaged and participatory art and events. In January 2016 she helped launch Reconstructing Resilience, an ongoing research and curatorial project that aims to address the various forms of sustainable practice. She has been the Curatorial Director of Figment Toronto since 2014 and has also co-curated exhibitions including Move to Stillness, for the Harbourfront Centre's Kick Up Your Heels Festival (2015), The Duel, AGO First Thursdays (2014) and What Are You Made Of? OCAD U Graduate Gallery (2013). She initiated the Toronto based workshop model and website Polymers in Action: Socially Engaged Art and the Environment as part of her studies at OCAD University, where she obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree in Criticism and Curatorial Practice. She publishes on anything that interests her deeply and moves her to the point of lengthy verbal expression.

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