The Sunset Years: How will I make a difference now as an artist? As a person?

Arriving in port, Caribbean cruise 2013

Arriving in port, Caribbean cruise 2013

I just returned from a working cruise trip with McCall’s Quilting, teaching quilters about design and how to make an art quilt. Though a wonderful experience, I was a little concerned about leaving home with my dad recovering in a nursing home, after trying times of his illness over the holidays. (He’s doing better now.)

My family tree, the Italian side, illustrated, mixed media, KG Taylor

My family tree, the Italian side, illustrated, mixed media, KG Taylor

I like history, and also family history. It is good knowing a little about one’s roots and how we fit into the world. This is a visual of my roots and family spread around the nation and world. I went to Italy once as a college student, and hope to go back and see where my grandparents’ generation lived.

Anna Sara Cozza and Robert McCrery Gillis, my parents

Anna Sara Cozza and Robert McCrery Gillis, my parents

My mother, Ann was an artistic type. I love seeing her college drawings, and enjoyed all of her sewing and embroidery activities we witnessed and shared with her, growing up. Dad was an engineer and had a woodshop in the basement for home construction work. It was a family that made things. Creativity was encouraged and understood, lucky me!

The Bread of Life, ink on paper, Karen Gillis Taylor

The Bread of Life, ink on paper, Karen Gillis Taylor

When I made this ink drawing, Bread of Life, I was a young woman studying art, looking for some meaning and purpose for my work. Nothing has changed! I still think about this. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”

If we are hungering for meaning and purpose in our art work, is it something more we are looking for as well?

Brother Bob, Karen (me) and Dad Bob Gillis

Brother Bob, Karen (me) and Dad Bob Gillis

Dad is looking well here, with my amazingly talented musician brother Bob Gillis who is his major caretaker. Bob has been able to juggle his music career, and teaching with taking care of our folks in their elder years. Our sweet mom passed away about 3 years ago.

Dad at his best, Colorado mountains picnic day

Dad at his best, Colorado mountains picnic day

This pic of my dad Bob explains a lot about how we were raised as kids. Joi de vivre, the joy of life.

Arizona, mixed media, Karen Gillis Taylor

Arizona, mixed media, Karen Gillis Taylor

I always like this mixed media digital print I made after our visiting Arizona where Rob and I went for our honeymoon, and then after when we took our 2 daughters there for family vacation time. Is it enough to try to present art to people and express the joy of life? Will such an art make a difference in the world or is there more an artist should seek to do?

I’m by no means thinking I’m in the sunset years. I have a long way to go, and believe I’ve only just begun to create art work that I might find riveting and exciting to pursue. Yet I have begun to think about the whole of our lives, and what I want to contribute to others. If it is pressing on my mind, it must be something to pay attention to.

What do you think? Does anyone wonder about these questions of making some kind of contribution, like our parents did?

Do you have a life outside of your art work mainly devoted to others? Just wondering…

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5 Responses to “The Sunset Years: How will I make a difference now as an artist? As a person?”

  1. Barbara Says:

    Hi Karen -
    I am devoted to my mother who ls 96 years old and lives in a memory care assisted living facility. I work full-time as an administrative assistant and barely have any time to paint, just a workshop every now and then. I am considering moving my mom closer to where I work so I can see her more often and check on her to make sure she is being taken care of in the best way. Unfortunately she has dementia and macular degeneration, cannot hear without hearing aids and can barely walk with a walker. She does not have enough stimulation where she currently lives and I was considering taking my art supplies and having her do some painting or collage. I would only be able to do this on the weekends however, so I might move her to anothe facility closer to my work where I could literally visit her every day. This newer facility would have arts & crafts and other activitiies for mom that she would enjoy. I believe she would get the stimulation that she needs. I don’t know how many more years I will have her and she deserves the best. Moving her probably will be traumatic though with her dementia. What do you think?

    • karen Says:

      Hi Barbara,
      The newer facility sounds like it might be good for your mom if it offers more activity and is closer to you. If she has dementia, perhaps she will be okay. I’m not qualified to know if that would be upsetting or just a new environment she could adjust to, but if you are able to see her more that sounds pretty good for both of you.
      Remember how Matisse worked with simple cut paper shapes in his late years? That collage activity might be fun for you both, not dependent on hearing or walking.
      Thank you for sharing your concerns. I hope the best for your mother and you.
      -Karen

      • Barbara Says:

        Karen -
        What a great idea – Matisse ! of course. I believe you are right – the cut paper shapes would be fun for us both.

  2. Judy Broughton Says:

    Thanks Karen, a truely beautiful and moving journal. I loved the family tree, photos and Arizona scetch…you are always creating! We are on our way to Cuba, and you are just back from your cruise…hopefully we will have time to catch up!
    Love, Judy (Santa FE)

    • karen Says:

      Judy, what a wonderful opportunity to travel in the same Caribbean I just returned from! Can’t wait to hear of your adventure.
      I had a friend stationed with her husband at Quantanamo bay in the navy and thought it would be fascinating to visit there.
      Keep me posted when you get back!

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