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.