By Carley Stavis
The generation gap of today, at times, seems impossibly vast. The young charge into the future, as the well-seasoned look back on the days of old.
But attempts to narrow that divide do exist, and a visit to two local art shows reveals that, at least in the world of art, the generation gap is not nearly as wide as it sometimes seems.
“If you walked into the gallery without knowing the title of this exhibit, it wouldn’t even occur to you that the artists were well into retirement,” said co-curator Judy Stabile, of the “8 over 80 in ’08” art exhibit at the Pajaro Valley Arts Center in Watsonville. “It has a youthfulness about it — very contemporary, very playful, full of light and vibrant colors. You literally would have no idea.”
The same is true of the work featured in the 11th annual youth art show “Spring into Art” at the Santa Cruz Mountain Arts Center in Ben Lomond.
“There is this piece in the front window,” curator Jennifer Hennig said with a chuckle, “that’s a completely mixed-media thing. It has this skeleton girl pushing a cart of flowers, and it’s just exceptional. And it was done by an 8-year-old. It’s unbelievable that this came from [a child]. You would never guess.”
There are more than 60 years dividing the oldest artist featured in the youth show and the youngest in the over-80 show. But the effects the shows have had on visitors thus far, and the message that each show carries with it, have been surprisingly parallel.
“The art these kids produce is wonderful because it is so uninhibited. They express themselves in whatever way they want,” Hennig said. “They’re free with their expression and most of them create outside the classic parameters that hold other artists back. … Seeing them create things that come totally from within is so inspiring.”
The 80-and-over artists also inspire with their creations.
“They all have this tremendous amount of life experience that lends itself to the work they do,” Warshaw said. “When you are younger, you are still trying to figure who you are as an artist, [but they] have already lived a full life of creativity and are totally free now to explore and try new forms.”
Both galleries also aim at highlighting the art of often-overlooked age groups in the community.
“This show began 11 years ago,” Hennig said, “and, ironically, I didn’t have children at the time. But I wanted them to be represented in the arts. We shove so much at the youth about what they have to do, and art gets pushed aside — in schools, at home. But people need to have a way to express themselves artistically at every age.”
The youth artists, 26 of them in all, who range in age from one to 19, mostly show two-dimensional visual art. Particularly notable pieces, according to Hennig, include the aforementioned skeleton girl and her flower-filled cart, and a Metallica-inspired paper guitar, accented by an abundance of glitter and a zest for all things overt.
Standing out from the rest in “8 over 80” was a piece by local artist Douglas McClellan that truly exemplifies a step by an older man into the modern world.
McClellan, though most comfortable with classic photographic art, took a leap into the 21st century with one of his pieces for this show. Rather than submitting traditional photos for display, McClellan took on what Stabile considers the tedious task of constructing an artistic compilation of digitally based media, showing that the old and the new can, in fact, blend seamlessly together.
“I’m nowhere near 80,” Stabile said. “But I’m in my 50s, and I know even at my age what a tremendous amount of work that piece would be, and what a departure from his other work in terms of the modern techniques he used.”
Uniting the men in the over-80 group is the fact that each served in World War II and subsequently went through college under the GI Bill. Uniting the women is the fact that they all supported, or helped support, their families with their artwork.
And uniting them all, old and young, is their art: tangible proof that age is just a number and that all of those differences that seem so pronounced in some areas of life fade away in the world of art.
_The “Spring Into Art” youth art show is open through April 19, and “8 Over 80 in ‘08” continues until April 20. Both shows are free. For more information, visit mountainartcenter.org and pvarts.org._