Saturday, April 18, 2009


“There's a moment for everyone when you fall into your own shadow and the fact is that it's your shadow and you're forced to live in it. And this is nothing to celebrate or not celebrate. It simply is.” Robert Rauschenburg

I really wanted to start this post with a snappy quote by a female artist about aging. I couldn’t find one! I found a couple, but they weren’t appropriate for what I am about to say. I think the absence of such quotes says a whole lot. Why do you think art quotes by females about aging are hard to find? What do you think?

My little Facebook drama brought on the thought to write this post. The comment about how weird my photograph seemed to my new “friend” threw me for a loop. I still don’t know what she was talking about or what she meant. I assumed it was about aging because I have been hearing from others how I am starting to look old. LOL Regardless, I wasn’t in the mood to contact her and have a discussion about my weird looks. I just didn’t feel a conversation about this would be a healthy thing to do (for either of us).

I want to talk about the subject of aging and female appearance for a number of reasons. The first reason is because I just have to let all the negativity and baggage about this issue go. Also, I think we all need to think about it because none of us are immune. We all change over time. Hopefully, these changes are for the better. However our society is so youth oriented, it seems all things related to getting older are dirty and nasty.
This is just wrong.

This topic is far more difficult for women. I agree with Eva’s comment on my last blog post. She wrote:
“The conversation about how women look is never ending and it comes from women even more than it comes from men. It's actually not about how you look. The body and face of a woman is a game and it's open season. Look how much men are judged and measured in this way. Not nearly as much.”

I totally agree with her. The part that upsets me the most is that men are not always the most cruel judges. As women, we do it to ourselves and we should STOP! For example, when I cut off my hair recently, I continually got comments from women like “Oh, you look younger now or oh gosh, you took ten years off!” Well, OK. So did I really look like a snaggle toothed hag with long hair? Why couldn’t they just say “Oh, nice hair cut or I like your hair this way?” They responded this way because aging is on their minds. We have been brainwashed to the point in which we relate too many things to our age and how we look. If this is what you truly believe and you are lucky enough to live into your seventies, eighties, or nineties, you are going to be in big trouble or at least, a very unhappy senior citizen. In other words, your self esteem better come from a source other than your looks.

I have never been a girly girl. My looks have never been a driving force in my life. I have always been too busy and interested in other things. Being alone so much makes it easy for me to just go with the flow of the way I appear as the years roll by. In fact, I think that is why that Facebook comment hit me below the knees. I thought my photo was nice and A-OK! In fact, I still do! There is nothing wrong with the way I look. I am in my mid-50s sans Botox or plastic surgery. This is how I look. If you don’t like it, don’t look at me! I have so many things on my mind that are so much more important than any photograph or how many wrinkles popped up today. This is just silly. Besides, I have never found superficiality to be an attribute for which I admire.

I chose the Rauschenburg quote because I relate to it so much. Recently, I have come to the conclusion my life motto is: “It is what it is!” regarding who I am, the art I do, the things I write, and the person I want to be. I do walk in my own shadow and I love it. Others will always have their own opinions, but those opinions are more about their own thoughts and fears. They have nothing to do with me.

So I end this post with two quotes by female artists which made me think and laugh.

“I never feel age... If you have creative work, you don't have age or time.” Louise Nevelson

"You should keep on painting no matter how difficult it is, unless it kills you, and then you know you have gone too far." Alice Neel

What WOULD they say? I have a feeling any one of them would say:
“Sheree, just SHUT UP and go make art!”


Eva said...

A positive thing I can say about these images and these women is that it took a lifetime of artmaking for them to get recognition. They had to stop being the object in order for people - men and women - to truly see the objects they made. The conversation changed.

So there are some good things about a woman artist getting older!.... Someday it finally is all about your work and not what you look like. Though I think for Georgia and Louise, that never changed.

I've met people at my own shows who have immediately talked about my body, my clothes, my hair and not my art - even though we are facing two years of work in a room. Like I said, it's open season. But someday, they're gonna have to talk about the work.

Sheree Rensel said...

Eva, You are absolutely correct. It did take a lifetime for them. I also agree that it has a lot to do with the fact that they had come to a place in which they were no longer objects.
I have thought about this frequently in the past few years. I LOVE the fact that this is happening to me. I love that my life is no longer about the female/male thing. I no longer have to worry about the drive to be sexually pleasing. I am so glad that is gone. I have realized my brain is focused on my one true love: art.
The fact people come to your shows and start with "OH, YOU LOOK.....blah, blah, blah" is so common. We all do this. We greet each other with comments about looks. Your comment made me want to kick myself in the ass. I realize now, a perfect retort to the woman who made the "your photo looks weird" comment. I should have emailed her and said "Screw my photo, have you LOOKED at my art?" LOL
Oh well, I will chalk this up to a l'esprit d'escalier! :-)

JafaBrit's Art said...

Maybe they would say shut up, but I am guessing each one would understand where you are coming from. I think sometimes we become so used to the idea that what we do speaks of our inner qualities that when someone makes an issue of our looks it takes us off guard.

Sheree Rensel said...

Jaf, Oh I am sure they understand what I am saying here. However, I don't think anyone of them sat around and cried about it. They just did their work. I think this is the best advice.

Kim Hambric said...

When these women were at the top of their art careers, the media world was not what it is today. Sure, looks have always "mattered", but today, it is far more pervasive. The media is everywhere.

Older women should stage a coup on Hollywood.

The pretty little chickies will age. The real ones will look it, and the phony one will not. Let's just persuade our friends to be real & hopefully real women will far outnumber the phony ones.

Let's go make some art.

JafaBrit's Art said...

"owever, I don't think anyone of them sat around and cried about it."

I wonder though, don't we all go through our moments struggling with it one way or another. I am 54 today and I am not a vain creature but I don't like how my body and my face is looking. It bothers me and I have had moments of wanting to cry. You are not alone.

kathy casey said...

You are so "on the money"
and You are soooo funny!
Yet this almost made me cry...
You want to know why?

Cause it sucks to get old
(or so I've been told)
But it is what it is!!!
and .....well....
it f*ing beats the alternative!

and yes...I know that last line does not rhyme! :D

Sheree Rensel said...

KIM!! Pull me up on your soapbox! I totally agree with all your words. For sure, those sweet, young pretties will age and not be so pretty anymore. So what? This has happened with every generation. What did they accomplish in the mean time? I know for sure I have never been a phony. You are right. I feel like I am in the minority. To be honest, really honest, I DON'T GIVE A SHIT anymore. I will take as many wrinkles as Georgia O'Keefe. It doesn't matter to me anymore. I just want to do the work. That's it.

Sheree Rensel said...

You know. This is all a revelation to me too. I have to tell you. From the time I hit 52 years old, OMG! It has been a downward slide in the "looks" department. It is freaking me out. I realize I am going to be a person who is very wrinkly and old looking. Oh, that Anglo-Saxon skin with freckles and little collagen/elastin is my biological heritage. That is it. I can't do anything about this.

So what are my options? Plastic surgery is out because I am far too cheap to waste money on something so stupid. Besides, I hate doctors and hospitals.

To be honest, I give up. I really don't have a problem with aging. I am fine with my looks. I think it is kind of funny. I just have a problem with people making rude comments about my aging! Screw them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sheree Rensel said...

Oh just wait. You are getting old right now. You won't have to wait to be told. It will all become crystal clear in less years than you know. This is why it is important to build up your self esteem muscles NOW. LOL

kathy casey said...

Oh Yes! It is becoming crystally-clearer by the second. One of my 8th graders saw an old picture of me today and said..." USED to be Hot!" LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL
I must be getting to look more and more like our lovely Ms. O'Keefe! And I will take up that torch and say WHO CARES!!!!!

Diana said...

Great post. I know that sounds trite but it really was a great post. I was hoping you'd mention Louise Bourgeois, and you did! She's my idol.

And I am, at 56, getting so very tired of worrying about aging and looks. I'd rather be judged for who I am and my art. I am in California. Maybe that makes it worse...

Sheree Rensel said...

Kathy, I hear you. This is especially difficult for me since I teach emotionally disturbed kids. Some of them are very rude and mean. Therefore, they go for the jugular when they want to insult you. In fact, that has always been my best means of weight control. I hear them screaming stuff like "You fat ass bitch!" to heavier teachers. Before this year, their insults towards me have always been something to do with the fact I am so short. Now it is starting to be "You old, ugly bitch!" They are real sweethearts.

Sheree Rensel said...

I feel for you. California is the land of the beautiful people. I feel that a little bit around here. We are a beachy town with lots of people with $$$$$$. In some ways, that is a good thing. I see all kinds of plastic surgery jobs here. I am not sure that is such a good thing. From those I have seen, it doesn't make you look younger. It just makes you look like an old person who has had plastic surgery! LOL LOL