Seniors Passionate About Their Creative Work

As part of Artful Aging Month, we are delving into 4 films and videos that beautifully highlight seniors who are passionate about their creative work. Their engagement with life, purpose, and imagination have kept them young and served their minds and spirits well into old age. As the author, Susan Sontage tells us, “Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration's shove or society's kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It's all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.” 


No. 1 :: Bill Cunningham New York 


The "Bill" in question is 80+ New York Times photographer, Bill Cunningham. For decades, this Schwinn-riding cultural anthropologist has been obsessively and inventively chronicling fashion trends and high society charity soirées for the Times Style section in his columns "On the Street" and "Evening Hours." Documenting uptown, downtown eccentrics and everyone in between, Cunningham's enormous body of work is more reliable than any catwalk as an expression of time, place and individual flair. In turn, Bill Cunningham New York is a delicate, funny and often poignant portrait of a dedicated artist whose only wealth is his own humanity and unassuming grace.

No. 2 :: Jiro Dreams of Sushi


In the basement of a Tokyo office building, 85 year old sushi master Jiro Ono works tirelessly in his world renowned restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro. As his son, Yoshikazu faces the pressures of stepping into his father's shoes and taking over the legendary restaurant, Jiro relentlessly pursues his lifelong quest to create the perfect piece of sushi.

No. 3 :: The Art of Aging: Celebrating Authentic Self 

A couple, both artists, take a penetrating look at aging through a series of projects that confront their fear and curiosity about growing old. They explore physical changes, sensuality and relationships, aging parents, spirituality and death. Drawing on their personal experiences and the wisdom of older mentors, they conclude that their elder years can be a time of ripening and harvest rather than stagnation and despair. Their profusely illustrated book contains a wealth of inspiration, especially for those about to enter old age.

No. 4 :: Sculptor Virgil Leih: Beauty in the Grain of Trees 

Artists are often defined by their product, by the thing they made in the world. But, being an artist is as much about figuring out how to make a piece of art. Minnesota artist Virgil Leih embodies this idea that we're called to create in ways that matter to other people. Mr. Leih is a woodturner who calls himself a "grain chaser." He uses the largest production wood lathe that's ever been manufactured in the United States to turn these 2,000 to 4,000 pound logs. He rescues the wood from local "tree trunk dumps" and then reveals the beauty inside. "When the arboretum invited me to come and do a show, I was so frightened and so scared. Doing a first public showing of something when you're 64 years old, I didn't sleep for weeks."Mr. Leih's artistry isn't just about the process or the unusual medium he works in, it's the fact that it's intricate, difficult, unguided, self-made, sometimes scary... and the necessary path to his goal. And though he might have been born into his passion for wood, he found his own course for expressing that passion.




Published on April 23, 2013.