Art without age: Silvermine exhibit highlights aging and creativity

Herons in the Stream by James Grashow

To say things get better with age can be an understatement. Take the exhibition at the Silvermine Arts Center opening on Feb. 16, for instance, “ReFRAMING Aging: Health, Happiness, and the Arts,” which features works by nine well-established artists in their later years, ages 72-87, who are now, arguably, making the best work of their careers. Paintings by a 10th artist will be exhibited in memoriam.

“There’s a bigger story here for everyone about lifelong creativity, what that has to do with aging, what that has to do with intergenerational bonding,” said Dr. Robin Jaffee Frank, director of strategy and development at the Silvermine Arts Center.

“Some of the works by the artists in ‘ReFRAMING Aging’ have become far more powerful, so that if you juxtapose the work they’re creating now with what they did early in their career or in the middle of their career, which is what we’re going to do in the show, you see “certain themes that carry through,” she continued. “But you also see the way in which they’ve honed their skills, their ideas, the way their self-knowledge, their confidence has created a kind of flowering, a revitalization, a brilliance in their later years that wasn’t there before. And that’s really the story we have to tell.”

Dr. Robin Jaffee Frank

The featured artists are Silvermine Guild members who were selected by gallery director Roger Mudre. June Ahrens, Paedra Bramhall, Marilyn Clements, Kathy Conway, Carol Nipomnich Dixon, James Grashow, James Reed, Jonathan Talbot and Florence Zolan will be included in the show. Paintings by Binnie Birstein will be exhibited in memoriam. The media and material ranges from cardboard sculpture, collage, photography, oil painting, watercolor and pastels, printmaking, and mixed media pieces using industrial or household materials.

The idea of presenting artists in their 70s through their 80s and 90s is not new at Silvermine, which also featured similarly themed exhibitions “The Legacy of Silvermine” in the previous two years. However, Frank said that “ReFRAMING Aging” has a strong programming component that the others did not.

Herons in the Stream by James Grashow

Frank, an art historian and author, was instrumental in organizing the programming, which is being supported by a grant from Connecticut Humanities. It includes a keynote lecture on Feb. 16 at 2:30 p.m. by James Kaufman, Ph.D., professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut. Frank will give a lecture at 2 p.m. on March 3, followed by a moderated panel discussion with Dr. Allison Ostroff, director of geriatrics at Stamford Hospital, at 3:30 p.m. the same day. A family day will be held on March 23 that includes a conversation with a children’s book author and illustrator, Leonard Everett Fisher, and Anne Butler Rice, director of education at Wadsworth Atheneum, will give a talk at 2 p.m. The family day will also offer arts and reading activities for children.

“We were very fortunate, in going after a grant from Connecticut Humanities, to be able to combine the great work that we’re going to be showing and the juxtapositions of these artists’ works at various stages of their career, with programming that’s really meant for everyone,” said Frank. “The work that’s going to be in this exhibition is powerful for people of all ages to see, because the artists, the stories they’re telling, are meaningful to people of every age. And the programming is meant for everyone, for children and for people who are getting older and getting better.”

“ReFRAMING Aging” opens to the public from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16, and runs through March 23 in New Canaan. For more information, visit silvermineart.org.

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