...candid and cheerfully irreverent ... bringing new energy and insight to questions that have long preoccupied the art world. As Painter puts it: 'What counts as art? Who is an artist? Who decides?' Painter gets more playful with these questions than she initially lets on. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Old in Art School is seeing her relax her historian’s grip on social meaning and open up to new ways of seeing.
The book is beautifully written, fun and funny ... Old in Art School appeals not just to those who dream about becoming late-in-life artists, but anyone who grapples with how to direct their energies post-retirement ... [a] rich experience.
...an inspiring, irreverent and fascinating look at her journey to become a 'real' artist ... The most rewarding parts of the book are Painter’s images and her descriptions of how and why she created them. In the chapter where she reminisces about Irma, she also provides a series of profoundly moving self-portraits. These paintings are so compelling that they make her teacher’s callous critiques all the more ludicrous. Painter also captivatingly dissects the intricacies she confronts as a black female artist ... a heartening coming-of-age story for the retired set.
...[a] bold, brave account ... Old in Art School is a fascinating memoir about Painter’s daring choice to follow a passion with courage and intellect, even when the odds seemed firmly stacked against her.
This is a story of a woman determined to redefine herself, a task made more difficult by the casual racism she faced in school ... Painter’s tone can be self-congratulatory, but she tells an inspiring tale of an older person pursuing a long delayed passion. And she has an entertaining writing style.
...vibrant ... Painter writes with typically elegant candor ... Old In Art School, which is as beautifully rendered as Painter’s art, is inspiration for those who think they have left the best of themselves far behind.
Her narrative weaves expertly among her art school experience, family upbringing, the loss of her mother, caring for her father at a distance, and art itself ... The author’s own works appear throughout, so readers see her develop as an artist ... Painter’s memoir presents her as an accessible artist, warm and inviting and keen to share her hard-won insights into her craft.
Like much of the book, this response is unexpected and refreshing ... Painter handles her narrative with the sureness of a seasoned writer, offering telling personal anecdotes alongside art world critiques. She’s that rarest intellectual who can write for popular audiences ... In addition to tracking one woman’s experience, Painter does for art what Scott Turow’s One L did for law school, simultaneously demystifying the process while inspiring awe.
Old in Art School describes many challenges during those years: eating alone in cafeterias; juggling coursework with cross-country visits to her elderly, ailing parents; struggling with self-confidence after particularly punishing classroom 'crits.' But it’s also a joyous book; a bumpy but unmistakable love story. Painter walks us through the work of many of her favorite artists (asked on the phone to name three that were especially influential, she cites Robert Colescott, Andy Warhol and Faith Ringgold), and vividly describes the joy of drawing (it is, she says, 'a means of slowing down, of really seeing what I was looking at'), the smell of the studios, the 'visual, tactile sweetness' of art-supply stores ... Informal yet passionate, witty yet heartfelt, Old in Art School feels like a painting rendered in words; a vivid picture of an experience in time.
...[a] witty and perceptive memoir ... This is a courageous, intellectually stimulating, and wholly entertaining story of one woman reconciling two worlds and being open to the possibilities and changes life offers.
...[a] candid, captivating memoir ... The author offers perceptive insights about the meaning of art: the difference between thinking like a historian and an artist; the 'contented concentration' she feels when making art; and the works of many black artists. A spirited chronicle of transformation and personal triumph.
Painter drew constantly as a teenager and studied art for a time at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1960s. Decades later, her historical research slowly brought her back to working with images, until she made the decision to attempt a second career. For Painter, that meant getting a second education, a journey that she chronicles in her new book, Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over ... Her writing is consistently readable, with the occasional striking line jumping off the page, often when she uses color as a form of description...and her style can be overly colloquial, with phrases rendered in all-caps for emphasis and words like 'Harrumph' appended to the ends of paragraphs. These Internet-inflected tics are arguably the wrong elements of the 21st century to bring into her memoir.