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Better with Age?

What follows is something that recently struck me but I haven’t had much success in flushing it out.  Please excuse the rambling nature of this post.

Some time in the last week I was hit with a strange feeling.  It was a moment where I felt like I was smarter, more aware, wiser.  I’m not sure how to describe it.  I felt like I was more in tune with myself and the world around me than I had ever been before.  It wasn’t a huge leap, just a small step.  But an important step.

As it related to my art, I realized that while I’m still not always certain about what I’m making, I am more comfortable with it.  I think this partially explains my willingness to experiment, to take my work in new directions.  It also relates to my comfort with criticism and skepticism in the gallery.  I feel like I know what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and I feel good about the end products.  This doesn’t relate to quality of work – though it might, ultimately – just about my comfort in being an artist.

This comfort has come with age and experience.  While I don’t believe age or experience necessarily makes for better art, I do now wonder if it significantly helps.  I’m not sure.  Who would make better work: a young 20-something who has seen little and experienced less, or a 60-something who has been around the block, if not the world, many times?

We know young people can create great art, just look at Picasso.  We also know that older people can make awful art.  But doesn’t it seem like a young person is at a distinct disadvantage?  After all, they have less stuff to draw upon, to inform their practice.  Wouldn’t it seem likely that that stuff would contribute to better art making?

So, then, why the fascination with younger artists?  I guess I am one being only 31 years old, but at least I have ten years of post-college real-world life experience.  The artists who are in school or just out of school… what are they pulling from?  What’s informing their work and perhaps more importantly, their view of their own work?

We know that age/experience does not necessarily result in better work.  But given my own limited experiences, and the steps I’ve taken forward in my practice, I am excited to add years and years of additional stuff to inform my work.  It might not result in better work, but I like my chances.

Those artists I know who are 20+ years older than me… I’m going to be looking towards you to see what I can learn from you.  I’m very curious to see how your stuff informs your practice.