Her Creative Exuberance Has No Limits
“I never liked partying or spending money,” she said. “Just let me do my art. That’s all I want.”
Who needs vacations or book groups, she said on Wednesday, while working away at her latest abstract collage — one of dozens of recently completed pieces that surrounded her in her basement apartment in Forest Hills, Queens.
Ms. Wint’s goal, beginning in childhood, was to become a recognized artist: to show in Manhattan, to sell her work, to have a gallery. Those dreams were derailed long ago by her duties as a wife and mother.
Now this widow with waning strength has resumed the quest, and is more productive and ambitious than ever, working all day, every day.
“I was always driven,” she said. “I can’t sleep if I don’t do my artwork.”
For evidence of this obsession, let us now enter a four-bedroom house in Maplewood, N.J., where Ms. Wint, 85, lived for the past 30 years.
Even after months of neatening by her son Ted Wint, the house is still so crowded with prints, canvases and sculptures that one can move through it only in narrow walkways.
“The art just took over the house,” she said while visiting on Tuesday.
Because of the clutter, Ms. Wint stopped letting friends in and discouraged visits from relatives in recent years. Her grandsons’ bunk beds became storage units, and the kitchen became her studio, leaving her no room to cook.
“She was so fixated on getting into New York galleries, she wasn’t eating,” said Mr. Wint, who in August took his mother to the hospital to be treated for pneumonia and a heart valve problem.
During her two months there, she blanketed Manhattan galleries by mail with photographs of her work. Two of them wound up accepting some pieces, as did a New Jersey medical center run by the Summit Medical Group. She has sold several pieces.
In October, after her hospital stay, Ms. Wint agreed to move into her son’s home in Queens. He offered a bed, kitchen access and a space to make art, and he arranged to have the house full of art appraised.
Growing up in Newark, young Florence was a natural at drawing. She painted signs and other items in her father’s hardware store and went on to study at the city’s Arts High School, then at New York University, and then at Columbia, Pratt and the Art Students League.
In the 1950s, she lived in a loft on East 10th Street under Willem de Kooning’s studio and envied his circle of artist friends who spent days creating and nights at the Cedar Tavern.
But she was a nondrinker who had to teach art to afford materials and studio time with masters like Robert Blackburn.
At age 28, Ms. Wint married a Jamaican immigrant who was widowed with four young children in Flatbush. Her family opposed the biracial marriage and disowned her, she said.
Running the household and raising Ted and his four siblings, she worked on her art late at night in the basement, often using discarded items and old house paint. When relocating to Maplewood, around 1980, she put some paintings out in the trash and they were snapped up by passers-by.
“I was shocked that people would want them,” she said. “I realized I should be showing my work.”
In New Jersey, Ms. Wint did some teaching and studying in art workshops and entered her work in various exhibitions. She also illustrated a 1993 children’s book, “Cowboy Ed.”
But her abstract expressionism “didn’t fit in” with the local art scene, she said, and for 15 years, she was occupied by having to care for her husband, also named Ted, who was battling Alzheimer’s disease and blindness.
He died 13 years ago, she said, “and then my artwork took over and I didn’t want to be bothered.”
On Tuesday, she surveyed the sea of work in the Maplewood house: expressive oil paintings of nudes, watercolors of flowers, bold woodcuts and clay sculptures of fantastical scenes.
Even the bathrooms were used for storage. There were canvases stacked everywhere, and cabinets full of prints.
“It’s just a giant repository of work — it’s like a fantasy world just walking through the house,” said Howard Carroll, an appraiser for the Swain Galleries in Plainfield, N.J., whom Mr. Wint hired.
With “a few thousand” pieces in the house, Mr. Carroll said it was the biggest collection by a single artist that he had evaluated.
Ms. Wint said that this was precisely what prodded her to keep racing against time for her goal, even with deteriorating eyesight.
“If I go blind, I’ll work with clay,” she said. “The thing is, I don’t give up.”
(Original Article HERE)
By Elizabeth Gilbert
Nearly all the women I know are stressing themselves sick over the pathological fear that they simply aren’t doing enough with their lives. Which is crazy — absolutely flat-out bananas — because the women I know do a lot, and they do it well. My cousin Sarah, for instance, is earning her master’s degree in international relations, while simultaneously working for a nonprofit that builds playgrounds at woefully underfunded public schools. Kate is staying home and raising the two most enchanting children I’ve ever met—while also working on a cookbook. Donna is producing Hollywood blockbusters; Stacy is running a London bank; Polly just launched an artisanal bakery…
By all rights, every one of these clever, inventive women should be radiant with self-satisfaction. Instead, they twitch with near-constant doubt, somehow worrying that they are failing at life. Sarah worries that she should be traveling around the world instead of committing to a master’s degree. Kate worries that she’s wasting her education by staying home with her kids. Donna worries that she’s endangering her marriage by working such long hours. Stacy worries that the capitalistic world of banking is murdering her creativity. Polly worries that her artisanal bakery might not be quite capitalistic enough. All of them worry that they need to lose 10 pounds.
It’s terribly frustrating for me to witness this endless second-guessing. The problem is, I do it, too. Despite having written five books, I worry that I have not written the right kinds of books, or that perhaps I have dedicated too much of my life to writing, and have therefore neglected other aspects of my being. (Like, I could really stand to lose 10 pounds.)
So here’s what I want to know: Can we lighten up a little?
Can we draft a joint resolution to drop the crazy-making expectation that we must all be perfect friends and perfect mothers and perfect workers and perfect lovers with perfect bodies who dedicate ourselves to charity and grow our own organic vegetables, at the same time that we run corporations and stand on our heads while playing the guitar with our feet?
When I look at my life and the lives of my female friends these days — with our dizzying number of opportunities and talents — I sometimes feel as though we are all mice in a giant experimental maze, scurrying around frantically, trying to find our way through. But maybe there’s a good historical reason for all this overwhelming confusion. We don’t have centuries of educated, autonomous female role models to imitate here (there were no women quite like us until very recently), so nobody has given us a map. As a result, we each race forth blindly into this new maze of limitless options. And the risks are steep. We make mistakes. We take sharp turns, hoping to stumble on an open path, only to bump into dead-end walls and have to back up and start all over again. We push mysterious levers, hoping to earn a reward, only to learn — whoops, that was a suffering button!
To make matters even more stressful, we constantly measure ourselves against each other’s progress, which is a truly dreadful habit. My sister, Catherine, told me recently about a conversation she’d had with a sweet neighbor who — after watching Catherine spend an afternoon organizing a scavenger hunt for all the local kids — said sadly, “You’re such a better mother than I will ever be.” At which point, my sister grabbed her friend’s hands and said, “Please. Let’s not do this to each other, okay?”
No, seriously — please. Let’s not.
Because it breaks my heart to know that so many amazing women are waking up at 3 o’clock in the morning and abusing themselves for not having gone to art school, or for not having learned to speak French, or for not having organized the neighborhood scavenger hunt. I fear that — if we continue this mad quest for perfection — we will all end up as stressed-out and jumpy as those stray cats who live in Dumpsters behind Chinese restaurants, forever scavenging for scraps of survival while pulling out their own hair in hypervigilant anxiety.
So let’s drop it, maybe?
Let’s just anticipate that we (all of us) will disappoint ourselves somehow. Go ahead and let it happen. Let somebody else be a better mother than you for one afternoon. Let somebody else go to art school. Let somebody else have a happy marriage, while you foolishly pick the wrong guy. (Hell, I’ve done it; it’s survivable.) While you’re at it, take the wrong job. Move to the wrong city. Lose your temper in front of the boss, quit training for that marathon, wolf down a truckload of cupcakes the day after you start your diet. Blow it all catastrophically, in fact, and then start over with good cheer. This is what we all must learn to do, for this is how maps get charted — by taking wrong turns that lead to surprising passageways that open into spectacularly unexpected new worlds. So just march on. Future generations will thank you — trust me — for showing the way, for beating brave new footpaths out of wonky old mistakes.
Fall flat on your face if you must, but please, for the sake of us all, do not stop.
Map your own life.