Sunday, September 20, 2015

My 65th Year-Part 1

This is the first of several upcoming posts of my reflections on my art and its place in my life as I enter my 65th year. As I’ve mentioned before, I take stock of my life and make resolutions for my birthday rather than the new year. This year’s birthday, when I turned 64, took on extra significance. I can thank the Beatles for part of it. As a teenager, the age of 64 stuck in my mind from their lilting tune of “Will you still love me, will you still need me when I’m 64?” 64 represented a transition into another chapter of life more than any other number. 

There are other things that have affected me this past year. Helping my mother-in-law as she transitioned from her own home to a senior living facility has been very difficult in many ways. Experiencing the consequences of her diminishing capacities has made me think about aging in a more immediate way. I want to make the most out of the time I have with good health and mind and also prepare myself for growing old with grace and acceptance. 

In the media, I find the frequent stories of people retiring and reinventing themselves frustrating. They are being celebrated for embarking on second, often more creative than their first, chapters. I feel like I am still trying to get my first one going. While I am so lucky to have been able to spend so much of my life as an artist, I haven’t felt that I have been rewarded in a worldly sense in proportion to my efforts. For all my writing and thinking about the topic, I am still working on how to define success as an artist.

Two years ago I wrote Art Lessons: Reflections From An Artist’s Life. I intentionally focused on my personal relationship with my work and what it had to teach me. I felt that there was a little knot of hardness somewhere in my heart and I hoped the writing would help to loosen it. By the end of the book, after thinking and writing about self-criticism, perfection, letting go of other people’s expectations and my own interpretation of them, and feeling like my work had to be hard to be of value, I embraced the words of Fra Giovanni Giacondo in 1513: “Take joy!”

In these past two years, many elements of my work have become more free. I have come back to calligraphy with a new sense of openness and confidence. In the studio I have had many moments of pure joy. But that little knot of hardness is still alive although diminished. I now realize that it is the next phase, the one I just as intentionally left out of that little book—the putting of my work out into the world—that is holding me back. I need to tackle that if my 65th year and beyond can be what I want it to be. 

I am an optimist and I like to interact with the world as an optimist. I’ve been feeling all this for a while but didn’t want to share my discontent without a sense that there was a way out of it. I now feel like there is. More next week.


Unknown said...

I am coming up on 65 in just a few short weeks and I am coming from that other side. I wonder if it is too late to start being an artist? I made art, higgely-piggely (good way to describe my feeling, if not really a word(s)) for many years but it seems to have no rhyme or reason. I just had to, wanted to, and couldn't not do it. It seems that art is just part of life in so many cultures yet here it is separate and needs explanation and justification.

And yes here, now, what will it mean for me to be an artist? And that matters somehow even when I have more time.
If you find any answers I'd love to hear them. I have one of your books by the way.

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord said...

Hi Sue
From my point of view, the answer is yes, it's never too late! You've been making art all along. You will be bringing to it all the wisdom and experience of 65 years and in many ways, that will make things easier. Feel free to be in touch by email if you want to. susan (at)

Lee Kirk said...

Congratulations on another birthday! They get more precious as we get older, but you are still a mere child. At 72, I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. No....I rather know what I want to do (art!!) but I'm still trying to figure out how to do that around so many other obligations (including a business that supplements our fixed income). Your work has given many of us great pleasure....please continue to work and grow and learn to accept and take joy in the freedom that art can give you!
Lee Kirk, still creaking along....

Mo Crow said...

(((Susan))) you are such an inspiration, one of the best things about being an artist is there is a mark that can be made for every day no matter what it brings. I once asked the Czech glass artist Dana Zamecnikova where she found her inspiration & she replied-
"Where else can we put all the fears, joys, sadness, frustrations & wonders but in the art?”

Wendy @ the Late Start Studio said...

I'm not sure how I happened upon your blog Susan but so glad I did. I'd also say to Sue that it's never too late and I'm proof. I have always had the drive to create . . . to make. After a year of gainful unemployment I'm beginning to refine what I do to the point where I can embrace the term artisan. Retirement needs to be redefined unless considered in the military sense of withdrawing from battle to regroup and then set forth once more with a new plan to reach the goal.

And I'm definitely not reinventing my life and setting off in a new direction . . . I'm embellishing the road I have walked since I was a child.

And now I shall make more coffee and read parts 2-4 . . .

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