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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Dianne Collinson : A Yellow Springs Ceramic Artist

Nancy and I had the pleasure of visiting with Dianne Collinson at her Yellow Springs Home and Ceramics Studio. When we walked into her house what stuck us immediately was Dianne's wonderful sense of design. Everywhere we looked there was something to catch our eye or interest. Even in the kitchen functional ceramic art pieces displayed on the open shelves beckon the eye, as well as a her beautiful ceramic backsplash, which is one of Dianne's earliest pieces

Over coffee and home baked sinfully delicious desserts we asked Dianne a few questions.

What’s the stereotype in your mind of an older woman? 
Ceramic Studio Entrance
The women in my family never tell their age, and we are all complicit in this. Perhaps that comes from a fear of being stereotyped, or perhaps vanity. On occasion someone has been “outed” when they are really, really old and the disclosure has never made that woman happy. Lately I have been trying out the word “old” a lot when referring to myself. It is kind of an experiment to see if the word will lose its power if I use it a lot. So far it hasn’t.

Do you also have a stereotype of an older woman artist? 
This is interesting. When I visualize women artists I admire, they are all mature women, women of a certain age, looking very settled into themselves. Think of it. Georgia O’Keefe, Louise Bourgeois, Eva Zeisel, Lucy Rie, Fannie Nampeyo. Some might have been seen as little old ladies, but all were vital working artists right up until they died. I think the work, the designing, the making may have helped them all live long, productive and artful lives. That, and maybe having a nice young man around the studio to help out. I can aspire to all of that.
Have you ever felt stereotyped because of your age? 
I have felt minimized, not seen, and ignored at times. Sometimes it has seemed as if younger people I have worked with have projected a teacher or parent image toward me and have acted as if I was that person. But really, I am of the rock and roll generation. I share a birthday with Janice Joplin. I am the same age as Mick Jagger. That puts  things back into perspective for me. I can still rock.
Describe someone who busts that myth for you.
My grandma Rozeboom. She was born in the late 19th century in a lumber camp in Michigan, became a circuit rider in the high planes, married a widower and had 4 children on the barren acres of North Dakota, and then moved to California in a Model T where the family started a chicken ranch. She stayed there until her 90’s and continued to keep a fine garden and live independently until she had a stroke in her late 90’s. She always looked like a stereotypical older woman, her long white hair always in a braided bun and a plain, button front housedress, but she was so strong and capable… and could still touch her toes at 95. Although fundamentally religious, I know that at her core she knew that women could do everything that men could.

Have people assumed that you wouldn't like some kind of art because of your age?
Not really. Much art innovation occurred in the 20th century by artists older and weirder than me. 

Have you ever experienced a bias against you or your art because of your age or gender? 
I think all older people experience degrees of bias because we live in an age which seeks the 18-48 year demographic. But I have never experienced bias against my art. And actually I was hired in an art related, creative and physically demanding job after retiring from my long time 9-5 job. Maybe because I’m still deceptive about my age.

What kind of art do you do?
Until recently I never used the term artist to describe myself. I have used my hands to make things since I was little. I am a builder, a user of tools, a problem solver, a seamstress, a weaver, a painter, a decorator, and I have always tried to achieve an artful result in my making. Now my medium is clay. It is my favorite pursuit to date.
studio sign
Has the aging process made working on your art different, harder? 
Yes. It keeps getting harder. Clay work requires a lot of heavy lifting. It’s very physical.

Have you made adjustments or tried new ways of working because of aging?
Yes. I can’t do all the physical stuff I used to. I have to ask for help or figure out how to break tasks down into manageable size. I have to limit myself to 25 # of clay to carry in rather than just lifting the 50 # box. I don’t like these limitations.

What advice would you give young artists? 
Don’t censor yourself. Just make. I don’t always take my own advice.

What have you learned from being an older artist? 
Younger is better.

Is it any better than when you were younger? No. See above. 

portrait of artist
Do you see yourself being able to keep doing art as you age? 

Is it still fun? 
I wouldn’t ever call it fun. It’s a lot of trial, error, frustration, overthinking, etc. but when everything is working and there is flow, it is just the best feeling there is.

What do you enjoy the most about creating art? 
Just that. The process when everything is clicking.

Dianne's WEBSITE
Dianne's work can be found at Village Artisans at 100 Corry Street in Yellow Springs