On Growing Old

I think it’s time I post something. Sim thought it was time a month ago. I haven’t written in large part because I haven’t known what to write about, haven’t felt inspired. But I think I’m ready. Sim, this one’s for you:This summer, and especially during the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking a lot about age, aging, the passage of time. I think it’s all because I will be launching my final year as an undergraduate on September 2. So much of what I’ve been pondering has been inspired and influenced by the gallery staff, too.There’s Kirk, the collections manager here, who makes working and parenting – being an Adult – seem like some kind of awesome continuation of whatever utopian existence I’m living now. The man practically plays with pieces from the permanent collection for most of the day, handling priceless works with truly unbelievable comfort. He runs endless errands in the gallery’s sweet beater of a van, answers our questions and Mary’s, and whenever he can he checks in on his adorably teenaged daughter. Somehow he still finds time to work in his studio, on personal projects and others for Scripps. And he does it all in Crocs, with a cup of coffee in one hand. He makes it look like fun, and I’ve heard him say many times that he’s happiest at work.Kristin, our data specialist, is a parent, too, and of littler ones, but like Kirk, she has not let parenthood sap her of her youth. She more enthusiastic – brighter eyed and bushier tailed – than any of us. She’s more technologically savvy, too.And Mary is the ageless paragon. There are moments she’s more of a peer than a boss; it’s hard to believe that she’s an alumna, not a member of my graduating class. She’s as hip we are; she’s current on more than just the news that makes the front page of the New York Times Arts section. I pray that I am as vivacious, passionate about my work, self-assured, and seemingly fulfilled as she is when I am her age.This is all in contrast to what I’ve been reading about Andy Warhol. I’m doing research on the 20th century American deity in preparation for a proposed exhibition of 155 photographs he took in the 1970s and 80s, which the gallery received from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts this May. I’m reading his Diaries, transcribed and edited by Pat Hackett, who I would, at this point, kill to meet. You know that game you play in which you have to name the person you’d have dinner with or take with you to a desert island? For me, for the past several weeks, that person has been Pat.Anyway, I’m reading about Andy – his words, and others’. It’s fascinating. He is fascinating. As are his attitude about age, the world, and what he did to our understandings of those constructs. He stayed so young. Everything I read – every interview with him or people who knew him – alludes to his youth, or obsession with it. He was young for so long, and then when he got old, he had his skin “fixed,” and he just kept on playing with the Kids. Everyone was a kid to Andy. I’ve been wondering: who’s a kid, and who’s not? Andy didn’t think of himself as a kid, but who else wasn’t? And what was he, if not a kid?What’s intriguing about Andy, too, is his paranoid (or is it just realistic?) understanding of mortality. After being shot and then stabbed, he was quite understandably afraid of death. Fearing another attack, he did little alone. Except sleep. So he says. But he was also aware of the inevitability, the approach of a more banal death: he took vitamins and drank carrot juice religiously. He’s actually famous for drinking orange juice.Kirk, Kristin, and Mary probably drink orange juice too. And it’s likely they take vitamins, or that they have in the past. But they don’t live with the self-conscious deliberation that Andy did. Their existence is not performance. They simply live. In living, they are less obviously fantastic than Andy. Kirk is not internationally recognized for creating transgressive or phenomenally popular art. Kristin doesn’t have a devoted cult following. And Mary’s gallery operation is far from being considered the fourth Factory. All three are real, though, in a way that Andy maybe never was. Instead of orchestrating and documenting, they seem to me to be in each moment, and to enjoy most of them.As much as I want my 15 minutes of fame, I know that I will be lucky if I can have 15 minutes of adult life as Kirk, Kristin, and Mary live it. Now it’s time I signed off and did some living of my own.