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Our Fullest Potential!

Updated: Mar 7, 2021

The Artist's Garden at Giverny, Claude Monet

It was Super Bowl Sunday just about two weeks ago when I was talking to my brothers trying to grasp even the least bit of understanding that would make the activity of watching it more interesting. Truth is, I was only really there for the halftime show, hehe. During our back and forth of questioning and answering, however, something really interesting came up. At this moment, I pointed at one of the players and asked how old he was. “Forty, fifty?” I asked. Immediately both of them turned to look at me, mouths to the floor in shock. “No Connie,” they said, “Football players always retire around the age of thirty-five.”

I was absolutely surprised. Only thirty-five? All of those hours of work, training, passion just to have it all be taken away at just thirty-five years old. This realization left me feeling absolutely puzzled and as the day went on I became anxious wondering how my passion fell into play with this idea. I thought about careers along the lines of modeling, acting, singing, dancing, even math and science and I was able to find a common ground for all of them. Each of them--to a certain extent--is limited depending on age. For instance, a model depends on her youthful looks and physical appearance to continue pursuing the career that she desires. Same with many actors and actresses--yet their talent is a big component for their fame, their looks are always on the line too. Once an actor’s looks fade away, oftentimes so does their time to shine on the spotlight and they are “not worth watching” anymore similar to an athlete whose physical capabilities have diminished with age.

So I wonder, as artists, when is it that we are capable of achieving our greatest potential? Do we improve as we develop our skills and grow wise with age or does our talent rely on the contemporary and innovative perspective of our youthful minds?

As artists, our faces are not so much the image of our brand but rather it is our paintings that speak for their own. On one hand, artists like George Seurat who died at only 31, Van Gogh at 37, Egon Shiele at 28 or Keith Haring at 32 hit the peak of their careers at a very young age. That means that they did not necessarily need to have the wise brain of an older person to become the legends that they are today. But then you have artists like Claude Monet, who lived a long life of 86 years in length and created some of his most well-known paintings during the last few years of his life. By that time he had already had a long and successful career but it wasn’t until he retired to his gardens on Giverny that he began obsessed with painting his gardens that became some of his most iconic pieces. Some examples of these pieces are “The Water Lily Pond” of 1899 or “The Artists Garden at Giverny” of 1900. Actually, towards the end of his life, Monet began to develop failing eyesight which actually made for great effects on his art. That’s when he began to focus on the visible world in a totally different way than he had during the previous decades of his life.

So yes, young artists are commonly seen as more vulnerable, sensible, brilliant and innovative, but truth is, there really isn't any reason as to why artists can’t grow with age. I believe that our passion as artists differs from most other careers. This is because in art, there is a sense of style, talent, and vision that can allow us to become very well-known and talented at a young age. At the same time, however, art is a field where age comes as an advantage. This is because there is a unique understanding of the world that only comes with age and maturity. Age allows for a progression of skill and allows us to grasp a better understanding of the world surrounding us so that we can move on to captivate it in the ideas that we illustrate. You could even say that nothing can stop us artists, as we use both our youth and our aging as an advantage towards reaching our fullest potential.

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Kathleen Reilly
Kathleen Reilly
Feb 22, 2021

Such a lovely perspective on life's experiences, especially of the perspective shift on aging. Makes me miss my buddy from the last 1918 class with Mr. ???can't remember his first name Siegel. Are you in touch with him? Is he okay through this slow motion, hazard filed life of pandemicism?

And how are you? The boys? Is this a creative insprining time for you?

Kathie Reilly

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