“It's paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn't appeal to anyone.” Andy Rooney
"Do not go gentle into that good night but rage, rage against the dying of the light." Dylan Thomas
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” Edgar Degas
It is a common contradiction that everything improves with age. We like to believe that our elders are wiser through their years of experience. But at the same time we also fear aging , as it puts us closer to death. We also fear aging in those we love for the same reason. Like all living organisms , death is the end result of life. Perhaps we are uneasy when looking at older people because we fear the end of life in ourselves. But as Dylan Thomas notes, life will fight death to the end by raging against it. The human body is a degenerating biological machine. It has a general expiration date that makes itself known more intensely as we get older. We feel our bodies fail slowly. Where once we were comfortable seeing our bodies in the mirror, age can make us wonder who it is in the mirror we are looking at. It is a trick of nature that our minds can stay young forever, but our bodies fail. The rage , maybe, comes from a youthful mind trying to control an aging process that can't really be controlled. Dutch painter Francine Krieg paints older women who have moved out from the pressures of 'beauty' to a place where spirit becomes the means of physical attraction. Her women are struggling with aged bodies that severely limit quality of life. Krieg exaggerates the dilemma by choosing the most unflattering angles and points of view for her compositions. She pushes the female body to an aging extreme that challenges the viewer to stay interested. She is obsessed with the effects of skin in aging and how the lines and wrinkles are clues to how the individual life was lived. It is somewhat predictable that Krieg has suffered negative reactions to her work, as on the surface one might think she was portraying elderly women without respect. But Krieg is really commenting on 'beauty' in much the same way as Sam Peckinpah was commenting on violence. By throwing aging in our face like a violent western, we have to respond. The response is what Krieg is after. She feels her point is made by the extreme response. Having said that, her work is very interesting for it's focused attention. She might take us further than we want to go into observing the decline of the female body, but we feel the horror of it. That might not have been her intent, but it is the core success of the work. Yes, mans ideal view of young female beauty does get shattered with age, but something else takes place of more importance. ... The realization that once idealized beauty is gone, the innate inner beauty of spirit has the potential to create an outer beauty with a greater depth. Krieg's personal vision is consistent and committed. She is expressing herself through her art in ways that give her a unique point of view toward the human condition.
text by Alan Katz