Old in Art School

Narrated by: Nell Painter
Length: 11 hrs
4 out of 5 stars (132 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Following her retirement from Princeton University, celebrated historian Dr. Nell Irvin Painter surprised everyone in her life by returning to school - in her 60s - 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?

Old in Art School is Nell Painter's ongoing exploration of those crucial questions. Bringing to bear incisive insights from two careers, Painter weaves a frank, funny, and often surprising tale of her move from academia to art.

A Library Journal Editor's Pick for Spring. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2018 Nell Painter (P)2018 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Mixed Feelings

The book is well written and easy to listen to. Nell Painter is a very accomplished academic, as she often points out in the book. It didn't seem like she valued her formal education in the fine arts which made me wonder why she continued to pursue the degrees. To become an artist with a capital "A"? Having said this, she is an intelligent person with the drive and resources to reinvent herself later in life. Her story had a lot of potential to inspire others, but for me personally the book fell flat.

12 people found this helpful

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Good story, but...

Good story, but title does not indicate the amount of history Painter includes as a history professor. Also included is Painter’s personal account of dealing with aging parents. Seniors will be inspired by her motivation and aspirations to become an accomplished artist despite life’s obstacles.

6 people found this helpful

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fair to, sadly, middling.<br />

This could have been so much better, even understanding the difficult journey. This is more a psychological journey through a difficult portion of the authors' life. Told mainly through the prisms of BLACK. WOMAN. OLD. (heirarched in that order and clearly meant capitalized...) though not correctly at times, it feels. While I cannot understand the BLACK or WOMAN views, I am coming to understand the OLD. This does not mean I do not empathize with her travails, I do, as best I can, but I have difficulty with excuse making, with a far too volatile, easily offence-taken. Yes, as a BLACK. OLD. WOMAN. who had lived through multiple generations of a society that has minimalised, marginalized, even demonized her race, her sex and her age-individually and in combination-I *can* understand the inclination.
Yet, at times, her story, which otherwise would be a personal triumph of perseverance and accomplishment becomes a seeming morass of bitterness and anger, at times of cruelty and pettiness.
I don't recommend one pass on this story, but caution that the art school aspect that might attract one to the book is more in the way of a literature device used to carry the real story forward. There are things within that might anger some-the racism, both latent and open; the dismissal of, for example, the Italian Renaissance as ' rich white people's art' and not the seminal HUMAN moment of history that it was.
As an OLD. WHITE. MALE. who has also later in life started to dabble on the (far) fringe of the art world, I understand the art world is heartless and cruel, yet I can understand and accept this as a reality of a heartless and cruel field without the baggages Ms. Painter likes to carry.
I would, ultimately, recommend this story, but only a lukewarm one. There is much to admire, but there is nearly enough darkness cast by the dark clouds within to extinguish the light.

4 people found this helpful

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Both interesting and boring

Too long and academic but with many important messages about being “old,” black, and female. Interesting to me as a poet because all the arts have similarities. Painter’s struggles with self-confidence will strike a chord with readers in creative professions.

8 people found this helpful

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Just about perfect for my time of life

Such a pleasure to listen to Nell Painter’s journey, full of her insights and struggles. While my “Old in Art School” experience occurred when I was 30, I am now 74. My life experiences happened in a different order but I recognize well the culture shock of a 20th Century person encountering and trying to understand 21st Century values and esthetics.
Painter describes the artist’s process with a detailed clarity that should be required reading for undergraduate and graduate art students, as well as art history students, curators and collectors.
In particular, I urge mature artists to read this book. It will bring great enjoyment and realization that we are not alone.

2 people found this helpful

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Not what I had expected!

I found this book divided into three parts: one part political, one part the experience of attaining and education in art, the third part, the experience of being a black person in America.

I am not a progressive/socialist and was not interested in the political leanings of the author and I found myself skipping through the book. If I were not listening but reading instead, I would have missed out on some of the interesting points in order to avoid Ms. Painter’s politics. Since finishing the book, I have looked at her work which I like very much -it’s a shame I cannot say as much for her book.

2 people found this helpful

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Excellent if you are an artist

I thoroughly enjoyed and related to Nell as she meandered through the art world, artists and art itself. It is uplifting to hear someone else going through the same Via Crucis as I have. This book was well worth the listen while I worked at my own art.

7 people found this helpful

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Who gets to be an artist? Never too old to start.

Strong audiobook with wonderful narration from the author. Painter is eminently interesting, a prominent historian turned "old" student and artist. She focuses mostly on her experience in art school and the challenge of juggling a successful career while striving toward another. I also appreciated her thoughts on navigating the art world as black and woman, caring for aging parents, and pushing through self doubt — who gets to be an artist? what is good enough — on her journey.

1 person found this helpful

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Good book for artists

While I don't agree with everything she said, it was interesting to hear the experience from her perspective.

1 person found this helpful

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Engaging. Honest. Surprising.

Nell brings a lifetime of academic achievement into her exploration of a new path in later life. She writes honestly and openly about the challenges including those that come with family ties. Enjoyed it.

2 people found this helpful

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  • ZiggyLuck
  • 02-03-20

Not at all what I thought it would be!

Disappointed. Very much about racism and sexism in her experience. Some very good points but too much about her parents mental health and state of the marriage. I found it very wingey and uninspiring which is the opposite of why I purchased it in audible. Iv given it three stars because of the few gems of info that are in it. However, they are few and far between. I really struggled with this book. I should have returned it really. But I kept hoping it would get better and therefore warrant a better ratings.

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  • mcgeordie
  • 07-09-18

me, me, me

preachy , self-indulgent, boring, self-congratulatory. Did I mention "self" enough? If you are an old, black, woman, from New Jersey, with a background in acedemia this is just the book for you.

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  • graham smith
  • 02-21-19

Excellent

first class. art, generation gap, mortality, aging, history, race, feminism. all done superbly. big tick