18 Aug Carmen Herrera
If you needed another reminder that it’s never too late to go for your dreams or make your passion a success, here is one of the most inspiring stories. Plus, just can’t get enough of her minimalist geometric abstractions!
Although Cuban-American artist Carmen Herrera spent 70 years perfecting and refining her painting style of geometric abstraction, she was relatively unknown by the art world until she was in her 80’s. She said her work has been a “lifelong process of purification, a process of taking away what isn’t essential.” It’s a quote that resonates with me. Minimal living and minimal aesthetics is what I’ve been drawn to for the past decade. I just feel it takes away the noise, brings organization, clarity, and it’s freeing. Beautiful simplicity.
Despite a life-long dedication to her craft, she was 89 when her big break came. In 2004, a fellow artist and friend, Tony Bechara, ran into the New York dealer Frederico Sève at a dinner. Sève mentioned that one of the exhibitors had withdrawn from what was supposed to be a three-woman show he was curating of geometric abstraction. Bechara recommended Herrera as a replacement. Her work caught the attention of prominent art collectors who collectively purchased several of her pieces and just like that, she became a world-renowned painter.
Now Herrera’s work is held in the collections of the Smithsonian and the Hirshhorn museums in Washington; the Pérez Art Museum, Miami; Tate Modern in London; and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana; as well as MoMa, the Whitney and the Walker. In 2019 her public sculpture was shown in City Hall Park in New York, moving to Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston in 2020 to coincide with a retrospective at the city’s Museum of Fine Arts. In 2019 she was made an honorary Royal Academician, the French government awarding her the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres the following year.
“I was left alone to refine and distil my art for decades,” she said of her late-starting career. “I have no regrets.”
Netflix is streaming the documentary about her life entitled “The 100 Years Show” that is worth the watch. Her story is undeniably inspiring as it illustrates her creative endurance and the power of art to sustain itself for a lifetime.
Age, she said, should be ignored as much as possible. Find something you love to do, and never retire.
I couldn’t agree more Ms. Herrera. Her story and her artwork is an inspiration to me, and a reminder that it’s never too late to pursue your passions.
Carmen Herrera was a Cuban-born American abstract, minimalist visual artist and painter. She was born in Havana and lived in New York City from the mid-1950’s. She passed away at 106 years old in February, 2022.
Feature image “Equilibrium” via Met Museum