Old in Art School
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? What does it mean when someone states (as one teacher does) that "you will never be an Artist"—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, dreams, the importance of hard work, and the stubborn determination of your own value. Nell Irvin 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.

Old in Art School Details

TitleOld in Art School
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 19th, 2018
PublisherCounterpoint
ISBN-139781640090613
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Art, Biography Memoir

Old in Art School Review

  • Julie Ehlers
    January 1, 1970
    There are many things to love about Old in Art School. The whole idea of someone going art school at the age of 64 is amazing, and Painter definitely provides a detailed sense of the experience for those of us who've never been (nor, in fact, even know someone who's been). Sadly, I believe her that art school is just as sexist, racist, ageist, and wedded to arbitrary trends as she describes here; why would it be different from the rest of the world?!? But as Painter tried to figure out her place There are many things to love about Old in Art School. The whole idea of someone going art school at the age of 64 is amazing, and Painter definitely provides a detailed sense of the experience for those of us who've never been (nor, in fact, even know someone who's been). Sadly, I believe her that art school is just as sexist, racist, ageist, and wedded to arbitrary trends as she describes here; why would it be different from the rest of the world?!? But as Painter tried to figure out her place in this world, her thought process and creative process were fascinating to me and satisfying to read about. Weirdly, I also really loved her portrait of New Jersey. Here in Philadelphia we obviously have a close, sibling-like relationship with New Jersey, but I've rarely been across the bridge (why would I? I mean really), so it was great to be immersed in it along with someone who very clearly loves it. It grounds the book in reality in a very vivid and effective way.Painter is a highly accomplished historian who's written several other books, but this is her first for a true general audience, and it kind of shows: Each chapter has a set theme, but within the chapters she tends to meander, as if she's sitting with you telling you stories. Ordinarily this sort of writing bugs me a bit, but I think Painter has earned the right to write this way. She's been around a while and she has a lot of experience, insight, and wisdom to share. She does this with humor and verve, and I was more than happy to give her my full attention.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    This one took a while—in addition to her storyline, Painter offers up a lot of interesting digressions about the art world and art world politics, so the narrative isn't always straightforwardly propulsive. I found myself—and this is a good thing—stopping to look up artists she mentioned, for one thing. Plus she has a quirky writing style that pushes back as much as it pulls you in. But it works, and I ended up liking this very much. The voice is a surprise at first, but it’s as unique as her ar This one took a while—in addition to her storyline, Painter offers up a lot of interesting digressions about the art world and art world politics, so the narrative isn't always straightforwardly propulsive. I found myself—and this is a good thing—stopping to look up artists she mentioned, for one thing. Plus she has a quirky writing style that pushes back as much as it pulls you in. But it works, and I ended up liking this very much. The voice is a surprise at first, but it’s as unique as her art, and communicates her heart and mind as effectively. I enjoyed being along on that journey with her, from eager artist to disillusioned graduate student dealing with a multitude of outsider statuses—female, black, over 60, out of sync with art world hip (marked, among other things, by a love of incorporating history and text into her work), with a firmly established non-art career already under her belt (Painter was a tenured, well-published professor of history at Princeton), and the caretaker of elderly parents—to a truly adventurous artist who believes in her own voice, her own hand, and her own old self. If my description of it sounds sunshiney, the book is decidedly not. But it’s affirming, maybe especially for those of us who aspire to make art in the face of the rest of life, or just to give fewer fucks. There’s a lot of incidentally good art history slipped in, and some good description of techniques, as well. This is a genuinely outside-the-lines memoir, and I’m so pleased it is.
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  • Kathleen
    January 1, 1970
    Nell Painter didn't give me what I was looking for. I expected a smoother ride -- gentle acceptance, a coherent story. But instead Painter shows her brain raw -- from elation to anger to irritation, to contentment ... and finally to an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design. This is a retired eminent professor willing to reveal her cussing interior monologue as she accomplishes what many advised her not to do.I learned: some art terms -- polypropylene paper, formalismartists to explore -- Amy Si Nell Painter didn't give me what I was looking for. I expected a smoother ride -- gentle acceptance, a coherent story. But instead Painter shows her brain raw -- from elation to anger to irritation, to contentment ... and finally to an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design. This is a retired eminent professor willing to reveal her cussing interior monologue as she accomplishes what many advised her not to do.I learned: some art terms -- polypropylene paper, formalismartists to explore -- Amy Sillman, Dana Schutz, Jackie Gendel techniques -- collograph, transcriptionI also learned:Be serious.Make lots of work.Don't ever stop.... and I learned I don't want to go to art school.
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  • Mary
    January 1, 1970
    At first I wasn’t taken with Painter’s memoir, it felt like she was taking too much time establishing her credentials in the world of history and academia. I am chagrined that I felt that way. As a historian, Painter is a fully realized top dog. Quiting that world at 64 to go to art school rendered her insignificant, a very difficult proposition for such an accomplished woman. There are so many stereotypes she must climb over, being old, being a woman, being financially stable and being too 20th At first I wasn’t taken with Painter’s memoir, it felt like she was taking too much time establishing her credentials in the world of history and academia. I am chagrined that I felt that way. As a historian, Painter is a fully realized top dog. Quiting that world at 64 to go to art school rendered her insignificant, a very difficult proposition for such an accomplished woman. There are so many stereotypes she must climb over, being old, being a woman, being financially stable and being too 20th century. Bravo for her battles with these obstacles. I leave you with my favorite sentence....” The deaf graphite rattle of leaves in the wind.”
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  • Joan
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating woman who has accomplished quite a lot. Dr. Painter is a noted historian. Then in her 60s returned to school to obtain yet another advanced degree, this time an MFA.Look carefully at the cover. At a book signing she indicated its a collage of cut up pages from her book, The History of White People.
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  • Maya Rock
    January 1, 1970
    Thoroughly enjoyedI really enjoyed this book. It encompasses so much, it’s hard to describe. I learned so much about art and RISD and appreciated the author’s analyses of her own artistic weaknesses and strengths; her relationships with her peers; her handling of her elderly parents. It felt very honest. I also liked her can-do spirit. I also think she is a talented writer. She is also pretty self aware, which helps, and I thought her climactic advice about only seeing oneself through ones eyes Thoroughly enjoyedI really enjoyed this book. It encompasses so much, it’s hard to describe. I learned so much about art and RISD and appreciated the author’s analyses of her own artistic weaknesses and strengths; her relationships with her peers; her handling of her elderly parents. It felt very honest. I also liked her can-do spirit. I also think she is a talented writer. She is also pretty self aware, which helps, and I thought her climactic advice about only seeing oneself through ones eyes was pretty good.
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  • gnarlyhiker
    January 1, 1970
    a most excellent collage of a memoir with a spattering of art history. a great summer read, too.recommend interview: www.historyworkshop.org.uk/tag/nell-p...good luck
  • Cheryl Campbell
    January 1, 1970
    This is a great memoir for toughing it out, and going after a goal that is what you really want, even if it is not what you do BEST. And, that's hard; it messes with your head. This book captures the conflict between her knowledge of what being an expert truly feels like (as an esteemed historian and writer), vs what being a struggling beginner in a culture that is not only different, but very capricious and at times hostile in its handout of compliments and opportunity. At first, I felt frustra This is a great memoir for toughing it out, and going after a goal that is what you really want, even if it is not what you do BEST. And, that's hard; it messes with your head. This book captures the conflict between her knowledge of what being an expert truly feels like (as an esteemed historian and writer), vs what being a struggling beginner in a culture that is not only different, but very capricious and at times hostile in its handout of compliments and opportunity. At first, I felt frustrated with this book, because - truthfully - I pretty much agreed with her teacher's response that you're "not an artist". And, as an electrical engineer, I am very familiar with what we called 'weed out' courses intended to push you out the door if you can't cut it. But, as the book progressed, I saw how she wove an understanding of the processes of art into her world in a way that enriched her life, and enhanced other books that she was writing as a historian. So, truly, she emerged as a emotionally richer, more fully integrated person who had honed considerable skills as an artist, if not a highly marketable painter. I changed careers, radically, at the age of 43 after 18 years in the defense sector in secure communications, to running my own business in manufactured wood products - a business that grew out of my (compensated) expertise in Victorian restoration and historic finishes. And, like Nell, there are still parts of you that are not fully resolved after the transition, even if you'd do the choice over again. And, like Nell, I also had two parents pass during the transition with all the headaches and heartache that caused. So, Nell - I feel for you!
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  • Jane
    January 1, 1970
    I don’t know why I thought I’d like this book. I’m not really an art person. I don’t really “get” “art.” I think the second act aspect is really what interested me and then I actually started reading it and realized it was actually about art. As soon as I started it I didn’t really enjoy it but I wanted to give it a fair chance, but also it’s really heavy and unwieldy to read on the train and I quickly realized I don’t really care enough about art to suffer it. When she gleefully described some I don’t know why I thought I’d like this book. I’m not really an art person. I don’t really “get” “art.” I think the second act aspect is really what interested me and then I actually started reading it and realized it was actually about art. As soon as I started it I didn’t really enjoy it but I wanted to give it a fair chance, but also it’s really heavy and unwieldy to read on the train and I quickly realized I don’t really care enough about art to suffer it. When she gleefully described some kid drumming on a train on her commute and from my own commute I was thinking I would have stabbed that kid, I became increasingly sure she is not for me. Once I decided to abandon the book it became even more insufferable to read. There were also pictures of her art sprinkled throughout and I didn’t like any of it. It’s chronological so I flipped to the back in case it gets better. It does not.TLDR: I need to stay in my lane.
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  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    I nearly sent it back to Audible; I often think writers should not read their material, but I persisted and I'm glad I did. Ms. Painter's honest memoir about her decision to follow both her heart and mind to obtain a graduate degree in art in her 60s captures the essence of who she is, how she thinks, and the forces that shaped her individual personality and life continue to affect the lives of so many others, especially racism, sexism, ageism. I love art and wish I knew more about it. This book I nearly sent it back to Audible; I often think writers should not read their material, but I persisted and I'm glad I did. Ms. Painter's honest memoir about her decision to follow both her heart and mind to obtain a graduate degree in art in her 60s captures the essence of who she is, how she thinks, and the forces that shaped her individual personality and life continue to affect the lives of so many others, especially racism, sexism, ageism. I love art and wish I knew more about it. This book provides valuable information about how artists learn, work, and create -- not just Ms. Painter, but the many emerging and established artists she encounters. I listened to the audible, so I'm not sure how her use of "an artist artist" is punctuated. I can envision the gesture with fingers indicating double quotes around "an artist," but it might also be an-artist artist or no special punctuation.
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  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    (3.5 stars) I read this at work for professional development. It was enjoyable but the heavy emphasis on art history and making was tough for me to follow without my eyes glazing over. I truly enjoyed her exploration of relationships with other artists and art students. As a current employee at RISD I can see the parallels between Painter's experience and the experiences of students currently attending art school. After reading particularly critical passages to a colleague, I mused, "maybe she'l (3.5 stars) I read this at work for professional development. It was enjoyable but the heavy emphasis on art history and making was tough for me to follow without my eyes glazing over. I truly enjoyed her exploration of relationships with other artists and art students. As a current employee at RISD I can see the parallels between Painter's experience and the experiences of students currently attending art school. After reading particularly critical passages to a colleague, I mused, "maybe she'll come do a reading?" I wonder if the university would ever let that happen. I would have liked to have learned a bit about her life after art school just because I'm still trying to figure out what that looks like for current POC RISD grads. It was fun to recognize some of the names of people I know and also have received support from. I'm glad I read this book.
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  • Paula Pergament
    January 1, 1970
    Nell Painter and I have lived parallel lives. The events and feeling she describes regarding her retirement, return to school, change of careers, and managing elderly parents are things I have experienced. Especially poignant are her descriptions of being treated as an older woman and not being seen or valued for the expertise she gained as a historian. I related to her feelings of inadequacy and the lack of acceptance she felt from the younger students she encountered in school It's hard to wri Nell Painter and I have lived parallel lives. The events and feeling she describes regarding her retirement, return to school, change of careers, and managing elderly parents are things I have experienced. Especially poignant are her descriptions of being treated as an older woman and not being seen or valued for the expertise she gained as a historian. I related to her feelings of inadequacy and the lack of acceptance she felt from the younger students she encountered in school It's hard to write about things that are considered mundane, such as the act of commuting to classes, but Dr. Painter's writing makes the reader feel as though they are on an adventure with her.
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  • Naomi
    January 1, 1970
    Although I could empathize with the author's plight, her unrealistic expectations became tedious and her entitled attitude annoying. She somehow assumed that her brilliant career as an academic should have translated into automatic respect in a totally different field - as if a prize winning chemist took a musical theatre course and expected to be hired by the Met. I know academia encourages tunnel vision, and Ivy League membership can foster a superiority complex but - how could she have such a Although I could empathize with the author's plight, her unrealistic expectations became tedious and her entitled attitude annoying. She somehow assumed that her brilliant career as an academic should have translated into automatic respect in a totally different field - as if a prize winning chemist took a musical theatre course and expected to be hired by the Met. I know academia encourages tunnel vision, and Ivy League membership can foster a superiority complex but - how could she have such a huge lack of insight about herself? She should have quit while she was ahead (after her BFA) and started painting, instead of plowing resentfully through a RISD MFA for its prestige value, and then writing a book complaining about it. She would have been happier and saved us all a lot of exasperation. On the other hand, maybe her journey was never about art making at all.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    I learned more from than this book than I actually enjoyed reading it. I learned about some amazing artists I was ashamed I hadn't heard more of. Sometimes I thought this book was written for a certain audience - mainly people who are familiar with art school and academia. Sometimes I decided it wasn't. Ultimately I feel this is a greatly important book because it challenged me in many ways. Nell Irvin Painter is an incredible, talented and resilient woman and we need more voices like her.
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  • Zack Rearick
    January 1, 1970
    Good audiobook, read by the author. Painter is eminently interesting, a prominent historian turned "old" student and artist. She focuses mostly on her experience in art school and the challenge of juggling a successful career while striving toward another. I also appreciated her thoughts on navigating the art world as black and woman, caring for aging parents, and pushing through self doubt — who gets to be an artist? what is good enough — on her journey.
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  • Krista Park
    January 1, 1970
    Spectacular read. I will search out more of her books.
  • Marianne
    January 1, 1970
    A bit disappointing. In my opinion way too self involved as she goes to Art school as an older student. Might have enjoyed it more if there was a little more grace and wisdom inserted.
  • ND
    January 1, 1970
    Entertained me but I got a bit tired of her...especially when she was bragging about her resume. I also didn't entirely understand why she stopped being an historian. But moving in places.
  • Judy
    January 1, 1970
    I could really relate to this book. The story of a brave struggle to reinvent oneself.
  • Cyd
    January 1, 1970
    Loved every page. Everyone who is old and/or artsy or has any ambition to one day be old and/or artsy should read this.
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