Can Age Produce Beauty? Artistic Legends at Work

canageproducebeautyIf you want to see artistic legends at work and the undeniable truth that age can produce beauty, you’ll want to check out this brilliant photo series in the recent issue of Time Magazine, When Age Produces Beauty. In my previous post, Creativity and the Art of Living Longer, I wrote about artists doing what they love and still thriving in their seventies, eighties and nineties. Today, I want to share these living artistic legends with you and their thoughts on creativity, art, and cultivating a beautiful life.

I love this picture of Mark Di Suvero, cutting steel and welding at 86 years old. Considered America’s greatest Constructivist sculptor, Di Suervo still puts in a full day’s work with steel girders and blow torches. Is this guy committed to his craft or what? Doesn’t seem too concerned about his golf score… Listen to what these other artistic legends have to say about work, creativity, art, and the human spirit. Read on…

Time Magazine commissioned photographer Eugene Richards to chronicle the work of several prominent American artists who were in their 80s or about to arrive there. Over 7 months he photographed them in their studios, homes and galleries. Here’s what they had to say about their life’s work…

On the Beauty of the Human Spirit

Di Suevo said, “The beauty of the human spirit is what you find in art. It is that thing of the spirit that counts. Everything else becomes flimflam. I believe art can change society for the better and make the world a much more intense living space.”

On Not Being Satisfied

Alex Katz, 86, best known for the cutout portrait style he developed in the 1950s says, “You’re always looking for more. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would end up where I am, you know. At the same time, I’m not satisfied.”

On Finding Inspiration in Struggle

82-year-old Faith Ringgold, who addresses racism and gender inequality in her work says, “I thought it was natural to always have art in my life. Struggle inspires me. I was brought up in an atmosphere of struggle in the ’60s, and I tried to pass that inspiration on to my students.”

On the Reason for Creating

Betye Sayr, 87-years-old, says, “What I find the most interesting is that the reason for creating has changed. As a young artist I was, like many artists, ambitious. Now, in my 80s, I feel more relaxed about it. I want to present things that really speak to the authentic me rather than what’s popular in the art world or what the trends are or whether it can sell. All of those things seem to have fallen away.”

On Art Being a Constant Project

“I tend to work in a series. That is, I just don’t do one show,” says John Baldessari 82, a conceptual artist who splices together images. He believes his art is a constant project. “I just start working and then keep working,” he says, “until I think I’ve said everything I have to say about that topic.”

On Art Being Fun

“For me it’s always been fun,” says Robert Irwin, 82, whose installations rely on light. “It’s a fun game, even when I’m scared. I mean, how blessed can you be? I get to play my game every day.”

Questions: What quote most resonated with you? For your art and life, what inspiration can you take from these artistic legends?

I’d love your thoughts and comments.

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  • techne

    if you find it, delete this – but I had left a comment abour mr. galenson’s research…

    • Joey O’Connor

      Did you leave the comment here on this post re: galenson’s research? Did it not post? Please clarify…thanks!

      • techne

        yes. there was a message that it was awaiting moderation (because it had several links to his research).

  • techne

    david galenson, an economist, did some interesting work on this, looking at art history and “postulating a new theory of artistic creativity. Based on a study of the ages at which various innovative artists made their greatest contributions to the field, Galenson’s theory divides all artists into two classes: Conceptualists, who make radical innovations in their field at a very early age; and Experimentalists, whose innovations develop slowly over a long period of experimentation and refinement. Although Galenson initially developed his theory from data solely concerning the visual arts, he has since also investigated conceptual and experimental innovators among poets, novelists, film makers, popular musicians and economists.” (

    You can find out more here:, and here:

  • techne

    speaking of Robert Irwin, Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin is a great collection of essays and interviews about his life and work: