The goal of this next series of blog posts is to recognize a unique group of artists who’s images and paintings have become part of the art vernacular over the decades. Most have gone underrecognized for their artistic contribution despite be known artists with exhibition histories that span more than five, six or even seven decades. They have artworks in museum, corporate and private collections. They have won grants and awards. They have supported themselves and their families with their art. Many have given a good portion of their time to be educators, instructors, and supporters of the art. Sadly, most have become all but forgotten as they move into their late 70s, 80s and 90s.
Let’s face it, we are a society that values youth. We are the NOW generation as evidenced in what is shown and sold at the art fairs, hip galleries, and contemporary art museums. I admit, I like learning about new artists and love finding a new talented artist. We can agree that art collectors and cutting edge curators are looking for the next young sensation. We need that to support the future of art. Sadly, many collectors have begun to buy art like they buy cars or shoes. What’s hot. What is cool. What will make them look cool. Little consideration is given to who the artist is or what the art is about. And how can they? It’s so new that their history has yet to be written. Those of you who know me can testify that I am a supporter of young artists. I believe in supporting artists. I want artists to succeed. I have a special place in my heart for the artists, but most passionately for those who have paved the way with their innovations, as educators and members of art movements, or pillars in the art community. Ironically, despite decades of commercial success with gallery sales and exhibitions, many of these artists have lived mostly in the shadows of their contemporaries who’s light shined brighter. Now in their 70s and 80s, they are threatened with the possibility of descending into obscurity because we haven’t taken the time to really know them. This is our chance. The time is now.
An art community is not built around just a handful of artists; nor is a museum or a collection or the entirety of the artworld. During the last two decades, I have had the distinct privilege to meet many artists who, in what many consider their twilight years, continue to create and exhibit art. They admit that they are all but forgotten. What intrigues me is seeing that the same flame that burns inside every twenty-something year old that drives them to make art continues to burn inside these mature artists.
I love artist biographies and autobiographies. That’s one of the main reasons that I was compelled to major in art history. Who doesn’t love a good story? Artists who have been around seventy or eighty years have good stories. They and their art influenced many during their life. They are known and loved by the art community. But why has history all but forgotten them?
The artists featured in the forthcoming blogs are those who have made significant contributions to the art world, yet for whatever reason, have created art in near obscurity. They make good art. Sometimes great art. They are artists you already know (if you don’t, you should). They have shaped the art world that we inherited. They are important.
As I embark on this journey to know these artists, contextualize their artwork, and begin a path of rediscovery, I invite you to join me. Who knows where this will take us. I can guarantee that you will be glad you did. They have lived amazing lives, they have been the catalysts for change, they offer insight and wisdom. Although they may not belong on the top 100 best selling living artist lists at ArtNet, they are important. Artist should know them because they have much to teach them. Collectors should know them because their work is that good. Curators and museums should know them because they played pivotal roles in the history of art.