field notes (2) mixed media by Canadian contemporary artist barbra edwards, pender island, BC
January 8 2018
Open Playing Field

Greetings as we begin the New Year!
January's darker, blustery days gives me permission to sit and read scribbled notes and creative ideas jotted down over the past months. Is there something worthwhile buried in that journal I might explore or did that trickster of an idea only seem brilliant in the moment? From there I find myself mulling over the impact of changes in the art world. When we look back on 2017 I think it will be remembered as a huge year of world change. Politics aside, if that's possible, there is much going on.

Right now the arts community is witnessing a time where people are speaking out for those who haven't had opportunities to share their concepts and ideas with the world. Looking at print and other media and at recent museum exhibitions there has been more focused coverage showcasing Indigenous artists, Black art (Mark Bradford), Gay and Lesbian art, while women artists in general continue to deal with gender and age discrimination.

Reading Emily Urquhart’s insightful magazine article Old Masters (called The Age of Creativity on line) in this past December’s issue of The Walrus was timely. She has us look at her father Tony Urquhart’s creative process in his aging years. Urquhart discusses artist’s creativity as they age from Monet, Rembrandt, Goya (all geniuses in their later years) to Guston, then on to some of today's artists. Importantly she discusses the belated success of a very few ignored women in the arts. I wasn't familiar with the paintings of Nunavut-based Elizapee Ishulutaq (wonderful to watch in this video of her drawing) along with higher profile artists  Sonia Delaunay and Carmen Herrera.

At one point reading the article, I was holding my breath at some of the ridiculous ‘research’ from years ago that "artistic success in various disciplines...concluded that each art form has it’s own decline corresponding with age. Poets peaked in their mid-twenties, classical composers and painters withered in their thirties, and prose writers prevailed, only if they were lucky, into their early forties.”
Hah, I sighed, if we were to believe this most of us are done! Who were these gatekeepers of the times with completely uninformed answers!

University of Chicago economics professor David Galenson, author of Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity says in the Urquhart article “The art world finds it very hard to accept older artists if they are not already known. The idea that creativity declines with age is in his opinion, just wrong”.
Galenson argues that more resources, such as prizes, grants, should be focused toward older artists. It’s not just from an equity point of view, it’s not just about fairness, it’s about making our society as creative as possible.”

Many of us were thrilled to see the Tate in London drop it's age restrictions for the prestigious Turner prize last year. It's about time.Sixty-three year old winner Lubaina Himid will inspire you with her response.

Kelly Leroux, friend and fellow student of learning sent me an image of her splendidly drooping Hydrangeas after an earlier conversation about my years of obsessively photographing the beauty of dying flowers. I grinned at her humourous title at the bottom of the photo, Delicious Decreptitude. How positive is that! Wouldn't it be fantastic if we could observe aging in nature and learn from watching its wisdom and beauty.

Finally, knowing there are many opinions regarding the importance of education in the arts may I toss my humble point of view into the pile. There seems to be a myopic trend within some of the art establishment that art school grads and specifically those with an MFA are the only ‘serious’ artists to be considered for major museums and galleries. (that was kindly explained to me a few years back) Today's art market is more competitive and business-driven than ever before which makes selling art more complex than ever. Yet I wonder about unique, spirited art that continues to be ignored because of 'rules', just as we have done in the past with race and gender. As a staunch believer in education of all kinds, my question is this: in artistic and conceptual fields, is the only way to encourage truly authentic creativity to have it processed within the structured, controlled environment of university life? Schools offer one way but we only have to think back to many of our senior established (and or dead artists) to know there must always be an open playing field for the creative soul to flourish. As Galenson commented above "it’s about making our society as creative as possible.”

Whatever your creative practice, I wish you a New Year filled with the wisdom of your present age, to focus on your true passion.

The two small gifts for you, a new painting I'm most pleased with and flowers!

images to the left: Field Notes (2) watercolour, mixed media by Barbra Edwards

Hydrangea photo by Kelly Leroux (thanks for sharing)

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