by Women Aged 50-65
photo exhibition curated by
Jan Potts and
This exhibit presents a paradox. The images are self-portraits
done by women who feel not only invisible, but at the invisible age. By
showing our images here we’re declaring our sense of invisibility,
at the same time we’re rendering ourselves, at least fleetingly,
What is the invisible age? To a large extent it’s a phenomenon of
our society, which sees and values younger women for their beauty and
energy. Our society also sees and values older women for their wisdom
and character. But, in the eyes of this same society, the 50ish to 65ish
woman is of little value and practically invisible.
But what we’re dealing with is not purely an external phenomenon.
The invisible age is also internal. It's an age of transition. The old
euphemism "change of life" referring to menopause may actually
pinpoint what happens to individual women at this time in their lives.
They undergo more than just hormonal changes. There are physical and emotional
changes taking place.
For many of us, it can be a time of goodbyes: parents may die; long-term
personal partnerships may end; children may be ready to leave home. This
time of life can also be an age of new beginnings: new relationships,
new career options including retirement, fewer familial obligations. As
a result, women at the invisible age often find themselves struggling
to redefine themselves in light of all these changes.
The invisible age affects different women in different ways. It would
be untrue to say that all women in this age group feel invisible. Some
don’t. Others have felt invisible all their lives. Some, who may
not feel totally invisible as individuals, sense the invisibility of this
age group as a whole. And yet, there are those who believe the premise
of the invisible age expresses precisely what they’re experiencing.
We are artists, not social scientists, so we have no means to measure
this phenomenon beyond anecdotal evidence. And, we must admit that we
used an arbitrary age range in our definition of the invisible age. The
timing is not precise. Women at around age 50 notice that something has
changed. It happens slowly, almost imperceptibly. Heads no longer turn
as we walk down the street, older or younger women are served first, the
boss calls on others in meetings, few models in magazines or actresses
in movies represent women our age.
We have reached the invisible age. It lasts a decade or more, and around
age 65, it changes again—we’ve moved into another stage of
life where the fruits of our longevity are valued, and society can see
us again. We also begin being more comfortable with all the changes we've
undergone and, as a result, we become more comfortable with who we are.
The timing of this exhibit may seem off. After all, Hillary Rodham Clinton
just finished an historic run for the White House. Yet, even though she
is at the invisible age and became probably the most visible woman of
this period in history, her run has not changed the situation for most
women thus far. And, though we don't want to make excuses for her failed
campaign, there is evidence that the media wasn't willing to accept such
a visible invisible ager. Therefore we believe it is exactly the right
time for this exhibit.
The work of the 31 women photographers you see represented in this show
expresses what it means to us to be at the invisible age. It is a personal
expression for each one of us. After all, none of us experience this life
passage in exactly the same way. But, perhaps, by emerging from our invisibility,
even if only for a short time, we can serve as a symbol and, hopefully,
an inspiration for other women of the invisible age who don’t want
to be invisible any more.
Age is a traveling exhibit curated by Jan Potts and Beth Kientzle.
We originally curated The Invisible Age for District Fine Arts in Washington,
DC. The show was exhibited there in the fall of 2006. It was also on view
in the gallery at Sussex County Community College in Newton, NJ, from
November 2-December 6, 2007. It will be on view at the RayKo Gallery in
San Francisco from September 4-October 10, 2008.
Artists in the original District Fine Arts show included Norma Bernstock,
Martine Fougeron, Candace Plummer Gaudiani, Deborah Lattimore, Erin O'Neill,
Jan Potts, Nada Savic, Elizabeth Siegfried, Jacqueline Walters and Anita
White. Artists whose work was added for subsequent shows include Susan
Arthur, Cynthia Batmanis, Niki Berg, Carol Dass, Topher Delaney, Mary
Dorsey Wanless, Mary Farmilant, Peg Fredi, Jane Fulton Alt, Martha Grenon,
Ingrid Hesling, Jean Locey, Charlotte Niel, Jeanette Palsa, Wendy Paton,
Mary Ramain, Barbara Rothman, Aline Smithson, Maurine Sutter, Rebecca
Swanson and Ewa Zebrowski.