Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Monday, April 11, 2016

Elder artists

"Born around 1910, Loongkoonan is the oldest living Nyikina speaker
and one of Australia’s oldest practising artists. A revered matriarch
in her community her life experiences inform Loongkoonan’s
shimmering and delicate paintings of Nyikina country."
-Mossenson Galleries

I am fond of and heartened by stories of older people making their art--tales that suggest it is quite possible to keep on keeping on (even without Yeatsian monkey hormones!) Take a peek at Mossenson Galleries to see the work of Loongkoonan, who at somewhere over 100 is lively and active as a painter.

Elizabeth Adams recently pointed to the writing of retirement home resident Mary McPhee. Her latest book is in the nomination process at Kindle Scout, and you may see a sample and vote here.

And here is a picture of my mother's hands at work--hands that are still weaving and gardening and helping others at 87:

Unfinished work from her 4-harness loom
Another glimpse of works in process.
Leave a name or a link if there's anyone you especially admire in the over 80 crowd...


  1. your mom's weaving is beautiful; i see where you got your talent from - weaving words into phantasies and dreams... very nice...

    1. Her family was full of great needlewomen, and as far back as I can remember she was involved in some sort of sewing and needle arts.

      In her work life, she was a librarian and so a great influence on my reading. In high school, I spent several hours at the university library each school day, as I had to wait for a way home. Rooting in a big library was great fun for a bookish girl. I also got to mess around in the archives (completely out of the picture these days!) and have many conversations about books with librarians. Some of them still come to my readings, and it's funny to think that they remember when I was 13.

      My father loved to write and published a lot in his field (many, many articles and one book in analytical chemistry.) He also wrote poetry and fiction.

  2. So many cultures hold elders in such high esteem, and perhaps American culture is moving in that direction, but my perspective (as 70 something) -- not as an artist but as an untalented wanderer on an irreversible journey toward God knows what destination -- I think society as a whole in this country infrequently rather than commonly holds old fogeys in high regard. But that might simply be the POV of cranky curmudgeon among young savages.

    1. Well, Tim, this was a Facebook post of mine a few days ago:

      Just now I was remembering Cambodia, how kind people were, and how they always wanted to know your age, so that they could know what degree of respect was due, the younger paying respect to the elder. And I was younger then but still, older than most there--so many of them had been murdered or starved under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. And then I thought about how it is here, with the desperate mania for and the marketing of cool, thin youth.

  3. Loved seeing your mother's work, Marly! Beautiful hands, intricate weaving. And thank you also for introducing us all to Loongkoonan and her paintings. I encourage everyone who likes the one Marly shows here to go to the link she provided. Here is part of Loongkoonan's description of her work: "Research by my niece Margaret suggests that I am aged in my late 90s, but I am still very lively. . . . My parents worked on stations, and I was a good-sized girl when I started work mustering kookanja (sheep) and cooking in stock camps. Later on, I rode horses and mustered cattle too. Wet season was our holiday time for footwalking Nyikina Country with my grandparents.
    Footwalking is the only proper way to learn about country, and remember it. That is how I got to know all of the bush tucker [wild food] and medicine. . . . I had a good life on the stations and three husbands. Today I am a single woman, and I like to travel about looking at Country and visiting Countrymen (generic term for people). I still enjoy footwalking my country, showing the young people to chase barni (goannas) and catch fish. In my paintings I show all types of bush tucker – good tucker, that we lived off in the bush. I paint Nyikina country the same way eagles see country when they are high up in the sky."

    1. Yes, loved Loongkoonan's description of her life and work! And that she saw herself as a kind of eagle in her painting.

      And thank you very much! I am always interested in what my mother is making. She also takes a class from a woman who learned at Penland School when she was four, and my mother is so funny about the assignments--she's so awfully opinionated that it's often comical! They know she'll tell 'em what she thinks... When I see her charting a pattern, I feel that weaving is beyond me--too mathematical! And there's a lot of fiddly work connected to it.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.