“I was used to juggling my self-perception and other people’s views of me as a black person and as a woman, from within and without. But now what I took as me seemed almost inconsequential as my essence shriveled into my age.” N. Painter
How are women, and artists, “seen” and judged by their age, race, and looks? And how does this seeing change, depending upon what is asked of the viewer? Who defines “an Artist,” and all that goes with such an identity, and how are these ideas tied to our shared conceptions of beauty, value, and difference?
Old in Art School represents an ongoing exploration of such questions, one that ultimately honors curiosity, openness, and joy—the joy of embracing creativity, the importance of hard work, and the stubborn determination of your own value. Nell Painter’s journey is filled with surprises, even as she brings to bear the incisiveness of her insights from two careers, which combine in new ways even as they take very different approaches—one searching for facts and cohesion, the other seeking the opposite. She travels from her beloved Newark to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design; finds meaning in the artists she loves, such as Alice Neel, Faith Ringgold, or Maira Kalman, even as she comes to understand how they are undervalued; and struggles with the ever-changing balance between the pursuit of art and the inevitable, sometimes painful demands of a life fully lived.
Nell Painter is Professor of American History, Emerita, at Princeton University. Her acclaimed works of history include Standing at Armageddon, Sojourner Truth, and the New York Times bestseller The History of White People. She holds an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts. Her artwork has been shown at numerous galleries and in many collections, including the San Angelo Museum of Fine Art, the Brooklyn Historical Society, and Gallery Aferro.