Life After Fifty
The year I turned fifty, I was living in Manhattan on 5th Avenue in the Village. My husband and I had recently bought and renovated the small apartment ourselves. Our business as interior designers and contractors was successful, we had a list of clients who continued to refer us to their friends. A second home in Provence, one which we had just changed up to from the small lock-up-and-leave bought 10 years before, was in the process of a major renovation. To round it off, my 50th birthday present was a 3 week tailor made safari to the Serengeti, Ngorogoro Crater and Tarangire Park in Tanzania, my birthplace.
We “had it all”, didn’t we! Not that we were complacent, we worked hard, very hard. Perhaps too hard.
Six years later, on the eve of a trip, alone, to the Sahara Desert to experience the total eclipse of the sun that fell on my birthday, I looked back in astonishment at all that had changed. All the above was gone.
The tumult of the breakup of a marriage, a partnership and a business is very painful, particularly when it is in no way anticipated. It has taken a long time for me to recover from a place I thought was secure and sure for the rest of my life. But some of what emerged is that many of the reasons all that fell apart and passed away, were to do with myself.
For a long time I had put aside much of my core self and interests as an artist when I decided to be in business. I had not realised that “getting to it later” was the now and right here. The reasons for getting married are as varied and diverse as the
couples who enter into that arrangement. What is certain for me was that during our 22 year partnership I had allowed myself to loose sight of my self and my own journey and activity as a visual artist.
This is not to say I was starved of my creativity. I not only pursued my own art practice when I could, but added to it with acting, writing, singing and contemporary dance, all activities that are in ample
supply in New York. I had a very
intense art life-which I carved out of the
time when I wasn’t managing a job site
somewhere in Manhattan. However, I
was no longer profoundly exploring my
own ideas and work as I had been
when invited to exhibit and be
represented by a gallery in SoHo, 20
I had been living and working in the UK as an exhibiting artist and a part time lecturer in art schools and universities around England before I married. Large sculpture commissions for two government agencies in countries in the Middle East and another for a restaurant in Knightsbridge came my way and I exhibited in renowned group exhibitions.
After working with my husband, I looked back and realised that my creativity had morphed and expressed itself more through the channels of interior design, specialty painting, furnishing and colours. These were commissions for clients’ pleasure. After the disturbance of my divorce, I revisited my personal well of ideas and began remembering my varied threads of creative inquiry.
Of course I am not alone in having the distressing history of divorce and a restart in life after fifty. Overcoming a sense of failure and figuring out a new life out of the ashes, is work.
No matter what the circumstances we find ourselves in as we step into that portal of fifty, whether through divorce, children leaving home, widowhood, or retirement from a business, there are many things for women to address as they enter the third stage of life, or “le troisieme ”,as the French put it.
Now, after all, I have found it’s a time of being free, with few of the concerns that younger women are preoccupied by. There are new and different issues as I move forward. It’s quite a steep learning curve to be alone and enjoy solitude, but there are great perks, too! It is still a struggle, but I am learning to be less concerned with pleasing others, being nervously at anyone and everyone’s beck and call, allowing for and following my path, to be more in service to my own creativity. After a long apprenticeship I come closer to who I really am.
- “Wa an Namus 03/28/2006 Eclipse countdown”: Photograph (volcanic crater inLibyan Sahara, with 3 lakes of different minerals at the centre)
- “Ka-aba”: cast bronze with terrossa ferrata plaster
- “Jules & Jim: Catherine’s Gift”: wood, paint, brass, Japanese paper, moire silk,lace, brocade.
- “A Distant Cloud”: sugar lift etching
- “Loss of Self”: Photograph
- “Michael Ignatieff’s Pool #7” :photograph; part of Swimming Pool Study2010-2016
- “Michael Ignatieff’s Pool #3”: photograph; part of Swimming Pool Study2010-2016
- “Girls at Night #5” – von Richthofen pool”: photograph; part of Swimming PoolStudy 2010-2016