She’s been painting for hours, her dining table piled with paints, brushes and canvases, tweaking bird beaks and fluttering wings, but she can’t manage to get everything just right. Suddenly, an unfinished painting takes a tumbling flight down the hallway. Her husband laughs and comments that her birds have found their wings, finally.
Joan Laurenzo has developed a bit of an artist’s temperament – at 77. And she’s not the only one. Palm Valley, an age restricted community in Oviedo, is home to a surprising amount of talented senior artists.
They shared their painting skills April 5 at the 13th annual Palm Valley Art Show and Festival, an event open to the public each spring, where residents display and sell their work.
“For some of them, this is the only opportunity they have, and they are very proud of their work and really want to show everyone else the beauty they see in life around them,” said Gladys Caughel, the organizer of the event and a painter herself.
The event is packed with artwork made by members of the community’s art club. There are gilded sculptures, painted jazz band silhouettes that dance off the canvas, and soft watercolor flowers.
Frank Scutt, 71, shows off photographs he took of a sparkling waterfall, and a man he spotted at the University of Central Florida balancing three basketballs on top of each other with a concentrated stare.
“You want to see a sparkle in the eyes,” Scutt says of his portrait work.
Some residents have just discovered their artistic talents, while others have spent their lives expressing themselves through art. Lin Reilly, 73, talks about her days as the director of the Melbourne Art Center and her paintings that hang all over the world. Art is her life, she said, and something she couldn’t help doing. Now, tapping into the creative side of her brain takes away pain, and teaching the residents at Palm Valley fulfills her need to be a part of an artistic community.
“I didn’t do it because I wanted to, I did it because I had to,” she said. “It was a compulsion, a reason for being.”
Laurenzo, who never imagined herself as an artist and only began painting last year, paints vibrantly colored birds and violet skies with hazy suns setting into the lake she used to gaze out into when it was her backyard. Many days she spends up to seven hours painting, leaving her husband asking when his dinner table will have food on it instead of paints, she laughed.
“To me it’s just very calming, and I’m not thinking about all of the other problems that you have in life,” she said. “I’m just being taken to this other world of wherever I’m painting at that time.”
Their age makes them better artists – their minds hold their histories, and their hands have now learned to share that, said artist Victor Pagan.
“[You have] experience of life, and to think that all you have seen your whole life, all of a sudden you see it on canvas, and it makes you think back on your youth, think back on happier times,” he said.
“We have the time now and we have the drive to do something with our life that will speak to the community,” Caughel said, “And we want to share.”