Saturday, April 25, 2009

the middle aged phenomenon

Call it the Susan Boyle phenomenon: a middle aged woman with nothing particularly glamorous about her is actually incredibly talented. People are shocked. The shock I do not understand, though I’ve seen it too many times to count.

She said she always wanted to have a singing career. “And why hasn’t it worked out so far, Susan?” asked the judge. The crowd shared looks of doubt - as if we all have opportunity and as if we all recognize talent when it stands before us. But we don’t.

And why must fabulous surprises of ripping talent only come in a young, fresh form? It doesn’t surprise me one bit that she could sing well for years without fanfare. What is unique though is holding on so long to the dream. So many drop out and forget. To believe in “someday,” year in and year out, brings a wear and tear of its own. But she never gave up.

This reminded me of what I initially did at Lovelake: show artists who, for whatever reason, were not the artstars they could have/should have been by their age - artists past 40, 50, even 60. Maybe some of them looked like a “risk,” but what they really were was just a surprise. In one moment and not unlike what we saw with Ms. Boyle, the consensus changed. From hindsight it looked obvious and so right, but initially it was sort of wrong and uncomfortable.

The word risk is still interesting, even though it is used nonstop these days, often applied to things which are already a given, an understood fait accompli. Many operate under the premise that quality risk is a known commodity, raised and nurtured in fine institutions and scripted into the press release. I’m not saying that this is impossible, but perhaps it happens less than is supposed. The looks of doubt that we see in this video are shared in other arenas – like the art world.

1 comment:

Richard said...

Eva, this is one of the most spot-on, beautiful blog posts I have seen in a long time. I, too, have felt uncomfortable with the astonished reaction to Ms. Boyle's talent. I really think age-ism is the "new" racism, sexism, or homophobia. I personally hate the snide editing of these talent shows, which pander to the lowest common denominator and are so blatant in their attempts to pander to, then allegedly rise above, common stereotypes.
Anyway, good for you for not only bringing this to our attention, but also for having championed artists for so long, irrespective of the arbitrary number of chronological age. Hear-hear!