They say if you wait for the bus, the bus will come. I say, yeah, I waited 98 years for the bus to come and nobody cared about what I did.
The words above are from a documentary called The 100 Years Show starring Carmen Herrera from filmmaker Alison Klayman.
It tells the amazing story of artist Carmen Herrera‘s persevering belief in her art, a belief that kept her at work without acknowledgment for over 60 years before the art world finally took notice. She sold her first painting at the tender age of 89 and for the past decade she has enjoyed the accolades and attention so long overdue. She continues to work to this day. On May 31 she turns 101 years old.
Carmen Herrera was born in Havana in 1915. Through the 1930’s and 40’s she split her time between Cuba , Paris and NYC, studying and immersing herself in the vibrant post-war art scene. Her work just never seemed to be in the right place at the right time or was overlooked because of her gender or ethnicity. She tells of a conversation with the owner of a well-known NY gallery, Rose Fried, who acknowledged that Herrera was superior to the painters she had in her stable but she would not give her a show because she was a woman. I can’t imagine how disheartening or confusing that must of been for her but , as she says, Rose Fried is dead now and she is enjoying the fruits of her long labor.
Besides she didn’t think the world was ready to receive her work.
So she continued to paint full-time without any acknowledgment and in 2004, an old friend recommended her for a show of female geometric painters at a NY gallery. The show brought her work to light and revealed how she was among the pioneers of the genre, the dates of many of her works making them milestone pieces in the evolution of geometric minimalism.
So at age 89, she had her breakthrough. Galleries and museums vie for her work now and she still paints on a full-time basis. It’s an amazing story and a great lesson in staying true to your belief in your own expression.
As they say, if you wait for the bus…
At the bottom is a teaser for the film: