What Will You Do With the Rest of Your Life?

The time that remains…

blog-Georgia-O'Keeffe-1971Georgia O’Keeffe in 1971 (photo: J Krementz)

Everyone knows about Georgia O’Keeffe. Born in 1887, she was 29 when her art career took off, supported by Alfred Stieglitz, her mentor, art dealer, and as of 1924 when she was 37, husband. By that time she had become recognized as one of America’s most important and successful artists. Stieglitz died in 1946 when O’Keeffe was almost 60. Three years later, O’Keeffe moved from New York to New Mexico where she continued a stellar career for the next 35 years, until failing eyesight forced her to retire two years before her death in 1986 at the age of 98.

blog-agnes-martinAgnes Martin in 1994 (photo Chris Felver)

Perhaps less well known is Agnes Martin. Agnes Martin was born in 1912 in Macklin, Saskatchewan, Canada, and grew up in Vancouver. She moved to the United States in 1932, where she studied and taught art. Her first solo exhibition took place in 1958 when she was 46 and by 1966, she was a highly influential abstract painter. In 1967, at the age of 55, Martin stopped painting. She too relocated to New Mexico, where she didn’t begin painting again until seven years later. From that time until her death in 2004 at the age of 92, she worked steadily and exhibited regularly, as well as receiving a number of international publications and awards.

blog-mccarthy-2004Doris McCarthy in 2004 (photo: Fred Lum)

Doris McCarthy was born in 1910 in Calgary, though she spent most of her artistic life in Toronto. She attended art college from age 16 to 20, and made her living as a high school art teacher until she retired at 62 in 1972. Though she had painted and exhibited as much as possible throughout her teaching career, it was retirement that finally freed her to fully develop the art that advanced the Canadian landscape tradition, that was widely exhibited nationally and internationally, and that brought her the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario, as well as numerous fellowships and honorary doctorates. McCarthy published the first volume of her autobiography in 1990 at the age of 80, the second volume a year later, and the final volume in 2004 when she was 94 years of age. She continued to paint until 2004, and she died at home at the age of 100 in 2010.

blog-carmenh-portraitCarmen Herrera in 2012 (photo by Adriana Lopez Sanfeliu)

Carmen Herrera was born in 1915. After six decades of painting privately, she sold her first painting in 2004 when she was 89. Her artworks, considered important milestones in the evolution of the geometric minimalism movement, are now in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern, the Walker Art Center and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. At the age of 99, she continues to paint and to exhibit, and says, “I am always waiting to finish the next thing.”

Do any of us know if the best of our art lives is still ahead? Of course not. But maybe the more important question is, what will we do with the remaining time we have?

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20 Responses to What Will You Do With the Rest of Your Life?

  1. Charyll October 26, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

    Very encouraging! I printed this out so I can look up some of these autobiographies. Thank you!

    • Laureen October 26, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

      It does feel encouraging, doesn’t it? Glad it resonated 🙂

  2. Melissa Dinwiddie October 26, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

    Love this, Laureen! We can never have enough older women role models. Sometimes I get so tired of hearing about young prodigies. I want to hear about OLDER people who went on to do great things when they were OLDER! THAT’S the really inspiring thing, if you ask me, because those are lives we can model our own after! 🙂

    • Laureen October 26, 2014 at 11:51 pm #

      Thanks, Melissa. I love these stories of people who just kept going or who stopped and started again – and just kept going!

      • Jeanne Apelseth October 28, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

        I am looking forward to that opportunity…it is the light at the end of the tunnel….

        • Laureen October 28, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

          I look forward to it with you.

  3. Marlena Wyman October 26, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    Excellent list of women artist at an important stage in their careers

    • Laureen October 26, 2014 at 11:52 pm #

      Thanks! Some of my personal heroes 🙂

  4. Jeanne Apelseth October 27, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

    Maybe there is hope for me yet?

    • Laureen October 27, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

      Always! There is no time when creativity and the desire to use it has to cease.

  5. Heather October 28, 2014 at 12:55 am #

    This is great! Thank you for sharing your knowledge…such great stories.

    • Laureen October 28, 2014 at 1:27 am #

      Thanks 🙂 Isn’t it wonderful to think of all we might do?

  6. Jessica October 28, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    Very inspiring, Laureen! I love how they lived such long and full lives. I wonder if the de-stressing that can result from making art contributed to their longevity?

    • Laureen October 28, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

      What a lovely thought. Maybe they were also supported by the fulfillment of their gift? Well worth aiming at!

  7. Elaine October 28, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

    There’s a quote I particularly like – though it tends to end up on wedding and anniversary cards I send – “The best is yet to come.”

    Hearing about people doing fabulousness for as long as this is cheering.

    • Laureen October 28, 2014 at 10:29 pm #

      Fabulous people doing fabulous things – just like us 🙂

      And here’s to the best of the future!

  8. Cyndi October 29, 2014 at 9:14 pm #

    This is a great post! Sometimes art gets better with a little bit of life experience!

    • Laureen October 29, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

      Glad you like 🙂 Doesn’t it seem sometimes that all of life gets better with experience?

  9. Petrea Tomko October 30, 2014 at 12:01 pm #


    Inspired and encouraged by your words, I am grateful for you and these women you write of, giving me hope for the future now that I’m “launching” my art career starting at age 62. My goal – to sell my first painting by age 89! I just entered two pieces in a show for the first time. No prizes awarded by any judges, but I take away the invisible prize awarded to myself, by myself for having taken that step! For years, I took calligraphy classes, grumbled about not being able to do anything with it between classes, but was blessed enough to have a mentor telling me, “You are making deposits in your creative bank. Your day will come when you can make withdrawals and create all those works in your head.” That day has finally come, and what a day it is! Thank you for your work, and I look forward to seeing what comes from your paintbrush as much as your pen.

    • Laureen October 31, 2014 at 3:29 am #

      Big congrats for taking all these first steps! I don’t think it ever gets less exciting, but as in all journeys, the first steps are so much bigger by comparison. Nothing ever quite matches them. May you have a long art career full of joy just like this, finishing many wonderful things along the way.

      And thank you.