Following her retirement from Princeton University, celebrated historian Dr. Nell Irvin Painter surprised everyone in her life by returning to school―in her sixties―to earn a BFA and MFA in painting. In Old in Art School, she travels from her beloved Newark to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design and struggles with the unstable balance between the pursuit of art and the inevitable, sometimes painful demands of a life fully lived.
...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.