One of my favorite works of art is titled, “50 Year Reunion, Double Exposure 1924 – 1974.” It is the final painting in a series of four that artist Sterling Strauser completed, chronicling the physical changes in his high school classmates over the course of 50 years.
Predominately known for his vivid still-lifes, landscapes and florals, Strauser occasionally stepped outside his comfort zone with almost primitive attempts at portraiture. A self-taught artist from Pennsylvania, his work has been shown at galleries, museums and universities around the world, and his illustrations once graced the pages of Mademoiselle magazine.
I haven’t seen the first three pieces representing 20, 30 and 40 years, but I think his concept for the last painting was genius. The number of classmates remaining a half century after graduation had dwindled down to just a few. He painted each person as they appeared in 1924, and then, through the magic of his brush, he introduced their older selves to their younger counterparts at their 50th reunion.In one scene, you see the portrait of the artist meeting himself as a young and an old man:
Much like Stan Topol’s ASDS room was designed around a beautiful rug, this room was designed around the colors used in Strauser’s painting. As with friendships, furniture and family, I like a good mix of old and new, but my favorites all have a bit of patina to them.
The reds in the space are reflective of the flowers scattered in vases across that scene:
I adore that spot of tarnish!I love this next segment of the painting. It is proof that life doesn’t discriminate when it comes to aging. 50 years after graduation, the class stud had lost his beautiful head of blond hair and grew to need glasses. He had developed a patina all his own. I assume he is long past gone now, but I may be wrong about that.
I pulled the turquoise out of the painting then added splashes of it in some accessories. A glazed urn from Portugal is reflected in one of a pair of vintage LaBarge tables. To reduce the legginess of the brass and stainless steel bases, I replaced the original glass with custom antiqued beveled mirrors. The mirrors have continued to age over time, and I think their patina adds loads of charm.
The back drop for the space was inspired by this lovely lady, and is represented in a neutral color palette on the walls:
Those colors are also echoed in a collection of shells from all over the world. They rest in the turquoise urn, as a remembrance of trips taken and moments stolen. I am literally a child of the sea, the hospital I was born in has a boat dock, and it is where I want to return when my time here comes to an end. Come to think of it, maybe I should apply for an Ocean Ash Sprinkling Permit now. Who knows how long that might take!?
I’m enchanted by the idea Strauser floats in the next segment. The younger version of one of his classmates acts as a helpmate to her older self. As I age, I grow more appreciative of what my body is capable of. It has turned high-flying aerials, hiked at wicked altitudes and given birth to three beautiful children. I know what it can do, and I know I need to push myself harder so that I don’t need that kind of help in my late 60’s. Feeling young at heart while having an aging body is such a difficult thing to wrap your brain around!
I love those two women. I know it’s one woman, but I adore them all the same!
Every now and then, I get the urge to scrub the rust and oxidation off the LaBarge table, but I don’t. I won’t! I like the patina it has acquired over the years. Oddly, this kind of aging hasn’t occurred on its sister table. They are so different, it’s like looking at a set of twins, one of which smoked, drank and sunbathed while the other behaved like a lady, wore hats, gloves and carried a parasol!
As I get older, I’m working on being more of who I feel like I am. After a few years of difficulty and loss, I’m trying to regain my twisted sense of humor, youthful energy, and some semblance of my former fitness level. The water and sand in Turks and Caicos was so perfect, I found myself doing tumbling runs like I was still a young gymnast. (If only we could all be so buoyant on land!)
It felt like freedom. I’ve known and read about countless individuals who have reclaimed their physical vigor after a long layoff, and I still feel like a kid and an athlete on the inside, so I need to transform my exterior to match. Getting back in shape after all my body has been through is going to be a long term project, but I know it will be worth it. It is all interior design work.
In the short term, I’m taking on another challenging project. I started going gray when I was fifteen. Really! After more than 30 years of hair color disasters and countless hours spent looking like my head could receive signals from space, I’m working with my stylist to grow in my true color, my own personal patina so to speak: a silvery white. It’s going to take a couple of years, a lot of patience and perseverance, and a discarding of any shred of ego, but I’ve grown into the idea of it and out of the multicolored locks I’ve been sporting forever.
My plan is to be one of those super chic ladies, like Emmylou Harris and Carmen Dell’Orefice, with fabulously shiny silver tresses. (Oh, no; a plan! Am I the only one who just heard God laughing like a hyena?)
Imagining what the future holds fills me with a sense of wonder. I hope I can greet a full head of white hair and an aging frame with as much grace as Sterling Strauser granted his subjects in “50 Year Reunion, Double Exposure.” I look forward to seeing who I will become. In the meantime, I’m going to treat my current self with more loving kindness. Here’s looking at you, kid!