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Old In Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over
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Published:
Catapult 2018
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Description

A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, this memoir of one woman's later in life career change is "a smart, funny and compelling case for going after your heart's desires, no matter your age" (Essence).

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; finds meaning in the artists she loves, even as she comes to understand how they may be undervalued; and struggles with the unstable balance between the pursuit of art and the inevitable, sometimes painful demands of a life fully lived.

How are women and artists seen and judged by their age, looks, and race? What does it mean when someone says, "You will never be an artist"? Who defines what an artist is and all that goes with such an identity, and how are these ideas tied to our shared conceptions of beauty, value, and difference?

Bringing to bear incisive insights from two careers, Painter weaves a frank, funny, and often surprising tale of her move from academia to art in this "glorious achievement—bighearted and critical, insightful and entertaining. This book is a cup of courage for everyone who wants to change their lives" (Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage).

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
06/19/2018
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781640090620
ASIN:
B0771HQPNX
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Nell Irvin Painter. (2018). Old In Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over. Catapult.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Nell Irvin Painter. 2018. Old In Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over. Catapult.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Nell Irvin Painter, Old In Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over. Catapult, 2018.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Nell Irvin Painter. Old In Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over. Catapult, 2018. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • bioText: NELL PAINTER is the Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, at Princeton University. Her acclaimed works of history include Standing at Armageddon, Sojourner Truth, and the New York Times bestseller The History of White People, which have received widespread attention for their insights into how we have historically viewed and translated ideas of gender, value, hierarchy, and race. She holds an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts. Her visual artwork has been shown at numerous galleries and in many collections, including the San Angelo Museum of Fine Art, the Brooklyn Historical Society, and Gallery Aferro. She lives in Newark, New Jersey and the Adirondacks.
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fullDescription

A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, this memoir of one woman's later in life career change is "a smart, funny and compelling case for going after your heart's desires, no matter your age" (Essence).

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; finds meaning in the artists she loves, even as she comes to understand how they may be undervalued; and struggles with the unstable balance between the pursuit of art and the inevitable, sometimes painful demands of a life fully lived.

How are women and artists seen and judged by their age, looks, and race? What does it mean when someone says, "You will never be an artist"? Who defines what an artist is and all that goes with such an identity, and how are these ideas tied to our shared conceptions of beauty, value, and difference?

Bringing to bear incisive insights from two careers, Painter weaves a frank, funny, and often surprising tale of her move from academia to art in this "glorious achievement—bighearted and critical, insightful and entertaining. This book is a cup of courage for everyone who wants to change their lives" (Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage).

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage and Silver Sparrow
      • content: "Old in Art School is a glorious achievement--bighearted and critical, insightful and entertaining. This book is a cup of courage for everyone who wants to change their lives. This is not a story about starting over; it's about continuing on the journey. Nell Painter has taken the coming of age story to a new level--this is what you get when a wise person gets even wiser, when a true artist spreads her wings."
      • premium: False
      • source: Entertainment Weekly
      • content: "In this sweet, nuanced memoir, revered historian Painter recounts her late-in-life (and post-retirement) decision to earn a BFA and MFA in painting, and how getting an up-close view to all things art changed her life."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Washington Post
      • content: "After years of writing history, Painter has become a visual artist, but she also discovers that she does not need to leave history behind. In this book, a memoir, she brings the two 'truths' together--the personal and the collective, the artistic and the historical--and the result is a heartening coming-of-age story for the retired set."
      • premium: False
      • source: Los Angeles Times
      • content: "Historian Nell Painter was 64 when she stepped down from her job at Princeton to attend the Rhode Island School of Design. She chronicles that experience in her memoir Old in Art School (Counterpoint, June), bringing her fierce intelligence to questions not just of age but also race and what it means to be an artist."
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly (starred review)
      • content: "This is a courageous, intellectually stimulating, and wholly entertaining story of one woman reconciling two worlds and being open to the possibilities and changes life offers."
      • premium: False
      • source: Time
      • content: "While exploring what it truly means to be an artist, this book asks honest and important questions about how our definition of identity influences our shared concept of art."
      • premium: False
      • source: The New York Times
      • content: "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 . . . Old in Art School is . . . meandering, pleasingly and profoundly so, as Painter negotiates the artist she's becoming: not identical with her historian self, but not running away from it either."
      • premium: False
      • source: Essence
      • content: "A smart, funny and compelling case for going after your heart's desires, no matter your age or what your critics say."
      • premium: False
      • source: Time
      • content: "Painter, most famous for her book The History of White People, now addresses the equally ambitious question of what it takes to be an artist--and whether or not she has it . . . If this book were a novel, the artist would have been exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art by now, but Art School arrives at a messier, braver conclusion. Painter is a painter because she studied it, works hard at it and keeps doing it. Being able to paint is one kind of gift, this book suggests, but learning to paint is another, and just as precious."
      • premium: False
      • source: Diane Cole, The Wall Street Journal
      • content: "Twelve years ago, at the age of 64, Princeton history professor emerita and best-selling author Nell Painter decided to reinvent herself as an artist, an avocation she had always longed to pursue but never had the confidence or opportunity to commit to . . . She tells her story with wit, honesty and insight as she learns to see her art, and herself, all over again."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Nation
      • content: "This tension--between the private, idyllic state of making art and the social and political realities of being an artist--is central to Old in Art School. It's very much to Painter's credit that she refuses to become cynical . . . She writes about her experiences with grace and style . . . Painter's background of writing history for a general audience serves her well in this regard; she's able not only to narrate but also to analyze her trajectory in clear, accessible language,...
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from March 12, 2018
        A history professor in her 60s takes a break from teaching at Princeton University to go to art school in this witty and perceptive memoir. After enrolling at Rutgers University in the fall of 2007, Painter (The History of White People), quickly immerses herself in her drawing and painting classes as she wryly observes her younger classmates “upholding art-school sartorial drama in bright yellow hair and piercings.” She notes that her fellow students, who know far less of the world than she does, are better painters, and she explores how her thinking as a historian hobbles her as an artist. Her “20th century eyes favored craft... narrative and meaning” while her 21st century classmates and teachers preferred the “DIY aesthetic” and appropriation from popular culture (e.g., cartoons, pornography). Painter goes on to attend graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she feels like a misfit as the oldest—and only black—student in her class, and is also unappreciated for her intellectual sophistication, though she ultimately develops her own aesthetic and confidence in her work. This is a courageous, intellectually stimulating, and wholly entertaining story of one woman reconciling two worlds and being open to the possibilities and changes life offers.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        April 1, 2018
        A noted historian tells about her daring career move to become an artist.At the age of 64, Painter (American History, Emerita, Princeton Univ.; The History of White People, 2010, etc.), president of the prestigious Organization of American Historians, former director of the Association of Black Women Historians, and author of seven books, enrolled as an undergraduate at Mason Gross School of the Arts of Rutgers University. In a candid, captivating memoir, the author recounts her experiences at Rutgers and in a Master of Fine Arts Program at the Rhode Island School of Design, which raised for her salient questions about identity, creativity, ageism, and racism. Some teachers proclaimed that she would never become an Artist because she "lacked an essential component, some ineffable inner quality." Although as a professor she believed heartily that skills could be learned through seriousness, persistence, discipline, and hard work, she felt her teachers' condemnation "piercing my student's psyche," causing her to question her ability and the quality of her work. Often discouraged, still she defiantly pursued two goals: "to make work that engaged the eye" and to celebrate, in portraits, her "intellectual women friends." One teacher dismissed her second goal as mere "illustration." As to the first, she discovered throughout her art education the vagaries of criteria used to assess quality. During her first year at RISD, she felt reduced to a "pathetic, insecure little stump," unsure whether her teachers and classmates "were critiquing me, old-black-woman-totally-out-of-place, or critiquing my work, which was not good enough." Painter admits having felt like a misfit in art school, which leads her to reflect about ageism and racism (both rampant in the rarefied art world). Awarded studio residencies, including an artist-scholar residency at Yale, she proved her worth. The author offers perceptive insights about the meaning of art: the difference between thinking like a historian and an artist; the "contented concentration" she feels when making art; and the works of many black artists.A spirited chronicle of transformation and personal triumph.

        COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        June 1, 2018
        In her midsixties, Painter was a professor at Princeton and an acclaimed historian and writer. Yet, nearly finished with what became a best-seller, The History of White People (2010), she decided to end her prestigious academic career and enroll as an undergraduate art major at Rutgers. Culture shock ensued. Well versed in discrimination as a woman and an African American, Painter found herself confronting ageism. More confounding was the need to learn to think visually instead of narratively. She also had to care for her elderly parents. But Painter persevered, ultimately earning an MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design. Bracingly candid in her vividly analytical chronicling of her challenging adventure and its emotional, intellectual, and creative demands, she astutely critiques the way art is taught and charts her quest to figure out if her passion for history was detrimental or essential to her visual explorations. With her art displayed throughout this deeply inquisitive, involving memoir of transformation enriched by art history, Painter?funny, furious, brilliant, and mesmerizing?celebrates the hard work art requires and the profound freedom it engenders.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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A Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobigraphy
"A smart, funny and compelling case for going after your heart's desires, no matter your age." —Essence
"Old in Art School is a glorious achievement―bighearted and critical, insightful and entertaining. This book is a cup of courage for everyone who wants to change their lives." ―Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage

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; finds meaning in the artists she loves, even as she comes to understand how they may be undervalued; and struggles with the unstable balance between the pursuit of art and the inevitable, sometimes painful demands of a life fully...
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Old In Art School A Memoir of Starting Over
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A Memoir of Starting Over
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tableOfContents
1. How old are you? 3
2. Leaving My Former Life 10
3. Getting There 25
4. So Much to Learn 36
5. Familiar Artists, New Ways 56
6. Illustration Versus the Context of Art 66
7. Transcription 79
8. Look Like an Artist 92
9. Drawing 100
10. I Could Not Draw My Mother Dying 112
11. A Bad Decision 133
12. Euphoria 145
13. Grief 164
14. Peers 180
15. Crit 193
16. Art School + History History 209
17. You'll Never Be An Artist! 224
18. Discovery 242
19. MFA Thesis 259
20. And Now? 275
21. Newark Artist 293
22. Art History by Nell Painter 303
Coda. Happy Ending 317