As if dealing with sexism in the arts isn’t enough, older women face another ism that gets little attention, ageism. Older women artists continue to be overlooked, ignored or presumed past their prime or ability. Our objective is to bust the stereotypes and showcase the art life of women over 50, women whose passion and exploration in the arts is as vibrant and as exciting as ever.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Visit with Self Taught Folk Artist Sharon Mohler

"I am probably thought of as an outsider artist, or a raw artist, though I call myself a folk artist. The truth is, I fit no category. I have been an artist all of my life, but I am self taught. I've never been to art school. Years ago, when my children were young (I have four), I supported us by drawing or painting anything that I could sell.  All winter I would paint the things that I knew, wild flowers, birds, etc., on anything that would take the paint (no money for canvas, paper or frames). In the summer I sold them at fairs and festivals, where I passed out my cards. People would call me and ask if I could paint this or that, and I would always say "Yes I can." Then I would learn to do it.  If I failed, I didn't get paid. This meant no money for food, electricity or new shoes for somebody in the house." Sharon's Songs Website
Self Portrait in Clay
"An artist is a problem solver."  Sharon wrote us.   I think that could be the core kernel of her personality.  Her life has been filled with overcoming obstacles, with large dollops of creating and laughter being thrown into the mix. Even as a single, working mom she made time to create tiny scenes from her memories, out of fimo clay, acrylic paint and wire at her kitchen table.  She calls her one of a kind, miniature art sculptures "Sharon's Songs" because they are the ballads of her life.
More videos 
There are a lot of words that come to mind when I think of Sharon, like funny, sassy,  creative and kind. 
err kitty wasn't too happy with me, I stepped on her toes
There is also the great word "tenacious."
When faced with an art challenge (or any challenge) Sharon will" go over, around, through, under or decide that something else is better." As a "self  and life taught artist," when she doesn't know how to make something work she keeps going until she figures it out.  To prove it, she has piles of hat boxes in her home filled with tiny scenes she has created from her memories and the stories from 2 earlier generations.

When asked "what kind of art do you do?" She said "Original."  And that it is, original and life affirming.
Sharon with her self made man "rollo" and  house pals
Sharon still works hard, always has. "I must always earn my own living,  I have plans for staying alive for as long as I can, but there are the worn out parts to consider."  
"I actually feel lucky to be an old artist . I have been lucky to keep my health, even though some parts are a bit worn. No one can live long enough to do all art. No matter how much you do there are still many ideas to be explored. "
"Time only gets better for an artist." Especially when you make interesting things happen and Sharon makes them happen.  
 Mohl-Hill Gallery is a tiny public gallery that sits by the sidewalk in front of Sharon's home.  Sharon designed it and then hired a helper for some of the building work. The plans were made and work started but it took a lot longer than she thought it would. "He's still not finished with my gallery {long sigh.} It is about 3/4th done.. When it comes to ageism I wish that some people would recognize that death is not that far away for me {she gives a fake 'Cough Cough' then smiles.}  I just wish that he would get the damned thing done."
It did finally get done. You can go visit it at 1227 Xenia Ave.
 This is the second unusual mode of taking her work to the street that Sharon has created.  She also created a wonderful green push cart to take her art outside.  On a nice warm day, you can find her and her art cart outside a downtown Yellow Springs store, chatting with friends and making new friends from the strangers that stop to stare. 
photo courtesy of Kate Ervin
 We asked Sharon "what is it like to be an older woman artist?"  She replied, "Good. I don't just think I can do things, I know what I can do."
So what advice would Sharon give young artists?  "Create in every way. It gets you food, clothing. Make up a job. Make pictures, poems or pies.  Other people need you. That is your life line."

Sharon had a wonderful reply to our question "What's the stereotype in your mind for an older woman?"  She said "A better woman."  And when asked "Do you also have a stereotype of an older woman artist?"  She replied "A clever, better woman."
So look again at the first picture at the top of the page.  That is a picture of a clever, better woman.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sandi Sharp In The Studio

I suppose I can say that I have always been an older artist.I went back to college at age 36 to study drawing (along the way, I took up painting too) because I strongly felt that if I got my degree, things would work out. What those things were, or how they would transpire, were unknown. I graduated with my BFA and turned 40 a couple of weeks later.
My plan was to take a year off, work, and then go to graduate school. Graduate school did not happen, but a lot of teaching did. I taught children from age 5 through adults. I taught at community for profit and nonprofit organizations, a museum, an art college, private instruction, and workshops. One year into it, I became an artist facilitator creating and implementing art projects for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. I have been doing this for 18 years. My skills and abilities certainly played a role in getting these positions, yet so did my age. In each case, a responsible, mature person with many and vast life experiences was preferred.

In my four years of college my age didn’t seem to be an issue. My professors treated me like any other student and the students treated me just fine. In fact, I made two true friendships that hold true to this day.

Perhaps my attitude helps. I never think of anyone being younger, or even older than I.  I was thrilled to be learning and excited to be teaching. Age rarely enters my mind, so perhaps it is not reflected back at me; in the rare cases that it does, I just ignore it, or laugh.
As for making my own art, it has ebbed and flowed throughout the years. Having the time and resources has been the issue. This perhaps is again where age comes in. I did not have the freedom of youth (although I am not sure the youth of today have it either) to explore some options. I was a caregiver to both my parents.  I had middle age adult responsibilities and financial considerations.

It was, and is, hard.

Has it been worth it? Most days I am compelled to say YES. I have learned A LOT. I have met A LOT of good people; young, old and in between. I have made a difference in A LOT of people’s lives. A LOT of people have made a difference in my life. It gave me the flexibility to care for my parents. It is NEVER boring. I have had solo shows, been in group shows, published in art books, sat on a gallery board of directors, and about a year ago, started my mini gallery, Gloria.
 Huh, not too shabby.
I draw and paint. In short, my art is about my response to a person, object or place. My favorite art making is about people. Occasionally I will work in 3D, and I love making books; sketchbooks, journals, documenting adventures…..but I always go back to drawing and painting people. A super strong attraction to art making for me is simply the feel and movement of pencil on paper, or paint and a brush on a surface.
paint brushes and paint tubes
Will that change? I really don’t know.

So far, the only aging process that is annoying is my eyes. I am always switching off glasses to be able to see reeeeeally clearly. Will this change? My guess is most certainly.

When I think of older women and older women artists, I think of wisdom, someone totally comfortable in their own skin, and kindness. Is this stereotype true? Nah. Some are, some are not. We are who we are.

My advice to younger artists is: Take Business Classes! Learning how to market oneself, understanding what you are truly expending and its value, budgeting, business planning, and much more it an integral part of being an artist, and usually, no one is going to do that for you. That is if you want to support yourself with your art. If you just want to make art, my advice is HAVE AT IT!
And, for all: Keep your sense of humor. If you don’t have one, well, get one. It will serve you well.

Sandi Sharp Website
Public Art Projects
Outdoor Miniature Fine Art Gallery

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A visit with Bette Kelley

As Bette said goodbye to us today she said "Keep Making." When I asked her "Do you have any advice for young artists, she said "Keep working." Do you see the theme here?

Everywhere you look in her home it is bursting with hand crafted art.
Bette comes from a family that made things. They taught her how to do things and instilled in her the belief that she could do anything that she wanted to.  "I learned to sew when I was 7, and I started selling my sewing at 14." She is always teaching others.  When I asked a question about some embroidery, she immediately started to show me how to do it.
  And at the same time told me that the decorated embroidery hoop that she was using was her grandmother's.Generations of a family that made art, crafted their surroundings, used their hands to make their world beautiful. Bette is following in that tradition and inspiring her grand daughter. She taught her to embroidery at the age of 4 and now at the age of 8 her grand daughter has started a once a week "Craft Night" in their family. 

Bette smiles and says,"She has the same Crow quality about color." Crow Quality? we ask. Bette explains that her grand daughter is exuberantly drawn to beautiful, colorful things.  She took exquisite pleasure from just sorting the multi-hued floss into neat sections in her floss box. Bette loves color too. I think especially purple.  You can see it in her home, her clothes and her flower filled back yard.   Have I said yet that, she is beautiful to look at?  With her long silver braid and delicate face, she is a line drawing by Klimt melting into a riot of color.  
It is such fun looking around in awe at her house crammed with art I ask her what are some of the kinds of art that you have done?  Bette replies "I did Stained glass for 17 years, beaded for 17 years,

available on amazon

 embroidered on and off most of my life and have seriously worked at it about 15 years
(Embroidery samples here). Went back to school and got an MA in costuming, then moved here to take a job with the Dayton Ballet where I worked for 3 years.  Then on to the Opera 2 years as a costume co-ordinator,and 2 years at the Human Race Theatre.  
I made costumes for the Dance Company Rhythm and Shoes for 18 years, did contract work for the DCDC, and for the last several years have made costumes for the Dayton Opera

 I have earned 90% of my living from doing art and teaching art. I had my day art that was for sale and my night art where I got to do whatever I wanted to. Nowadays it's the opposite my night art is my job-I'm in the Wardrobe Union and work backstage as a dresser for edseveral venues. I helped make costumes for the South Slavic Club for 25 years. As you might have guess, a lot of my "jobs" overlapped."

 Bette also has an extensive collection of handcrafted dolls and we asked why make so many dolls? "It started with the South Slavic Club. I was in charge of the cultural display at our Dayton International Festival booth for several years. One year we made dolls. I talked 3 other women into making some as well. I like to make ethnic costumes and doll scale size goes  so much faster."

"Most of the time I'm an energizer ever ready bunny.  My hands need to be busy.  As a child, I couldn't sit and watch TV.  My dad made me a wooden jigsaw puzzle  board that fit over my lap so I could do that while I watched TV."

"I worry about how much sentient time I have left since dementia runs strong in my family.  When I think about projects or things I want to do I always keep this in mind.

Bette showed us a huge notebook for the lessons that she has taken on line with the British City and Guild program.  Lots of intensive research. "The main reason I didn't continue the City and Guilds program was time. It took me 10 months instead of 3 to finish that module-at that time there were 8 modules. I have so many ideas in my head that I felt I couldn't give up that much time."
"I've had to make some adjustments because of aging. You learn to accommodate because you have to keep working." She hired an ergonomic expert to teach her exercises to combat her arthritis.  "I listen to books on CD while I embroider or do any of my art and I have learned when the CD is done it's time to stretch." Bette also said with her slow smile, "and I wear as many braces as I can put on my body."

"I belong to the "More is Never Enough Fan Club."

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Margrit Tydings-Petrie

A visit with
 Margrit Tydings-Petrie
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Photography by c.bayraktaroglu aka jafabrit

Winner of the YSAC People's Choice Award 2013. There is a great review of her last exhibit Dancing With the Universe: Masks and Beyond on A Yellow Springs Blog.

Video by Susan Gartner

What kind of art do you do?
A lot of different kinds of art.”
Margrit works a lot with Paper Mache. She collects recycled plastics containers and used Styrofoam. Piles of them are stored in bags around her studio. She covers them with Papier Mâché to make fantastical creatures, vibrant, verdant frames, colorful painted trays and containers and delightfully charming puppets and masks. She has been making puppets and masks for decades.
When Margrit goes anywhere, She carries an artist journal with her and draws tiny life scenes and portraits.  When she comes back from trips, instead of photographs, she carries with her a beautifully drawn artist memory book of her adventures abroad.
She paints whimsical pictures and finishes them in frames she makes from Styrofoam and Paper Mache and then paints the frames with flowers and leaves. 
Working with what she can find, Margrit uses many ingenious ways to make art out of what most people throw out. She has taught Styrofoam printmaking and Paper Mache with many different kinds of students- from the emotionally challenged, to seniors, prisoners, and homeschoolers.  Everybody in Margrit’s family was a teacher.  When Margrit told her father that she wanted to be an artist.  He said, “You can be an artist but try to help other people with it.” She has spent her life never turning away from outsiders in society.  When no one wanted to teach in prisons, Margrit dedicated 17 years to teaching prisoners.

Describe someone who busts the myth for you.
Margrit answered immediately-
My Aunt Cordelia, no matter what the circumstances she was always exploring, always sharing and including people.  I like to see the people who are really working at their art.” Another inspiration is Louise Nevelson and you can see an element of that influence in in an early print of Margrit's from the 70's.
Is there any new media you would like to learn? 
Margrit has always wanted to learn other kinds of printmaking.  You might say it runs in her blood.  Her granddaddy ran the Kentucky Litho.  Margrit’s on a new art adventure. “I’m starting to learn printmaking. I was asked what would I do if I could afford to do anything?  I wanted to learn to make prints.  I just won a grant from the Ohio Arts Council- it’s a grant for artists with disabilities.  I’m using it to join the Dayton Printmaker Association." Being ever curious Margrit is also going to learn to dye silk.

Do you have a stereotype of an older woman artist?  No make up, bright connecting eyes, good laugh from the belly, acceptance of life’s mistakes, doing what they want to do, busy all the time, living fully, fun and relaxing to intense!
Hmmm, I looked at Margrit and thought, “Good description of Margrit!”

Have you ever felt stereotyped because of your age?
Ignored sometimes, like my prime is past.”

Has the aging process made working on your art different, harder?

"It’s more do or die.  I put things off, so last night I stayed up all night working.  I’ve got a bit of precognition.  I knew what I needed to do the day before. I had 3 naps yesterday.  If I go with my inner consciousness, I’m pretty much all right."

Have you made adjustments or tried new ways of working because of aging? "My knee has been a problem. I used to do everything on the floor.  Now I sit. I take naps. I just take a nap when I’m tired."  Looking at her current projects, as well as upcoming classes, and exhibit, I would say age hasn't really slowed her down too much.

What advice would you give young artists?
Be careful of self-criticism.  Do suspend judgment. Keeping working.  Try crazy ideas-maybe 20 years later you’ll have the skills to create it.
Invite people to work with you.  Ask them to show you what they can’t do.
(They always say first that they can’t do art.) Then make people know its doable-it’s just something that we do.

Is making art any better than when you were younger? I really feel like I know what I’m doing now.  I have so many ideas, I want to use them and make something.”

Is it still fun?
"I enjoy making a mess. 

 I always have, when I was tiny, I was told, I painted my crib with you know what.”
Corrine says delightedly “You were a poo artist!”

At about 4, I remember, when we went to church, I would be loud and boisterous, my mother would silently flip over the church bulletin, give me a pencil and point to it for me to draw. “  

Margrit has always made art and continues to make art every day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Welcome to Powa!

It's Women's History Month and what better month to publish our new blog about women. 
This will be an ongoing project by the jafagirls to showcase older women artists whose creative passions continue to burn bright. We hope to provide role models and hope models to inspire young and old and all those in-between.

nancy mellon