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It is Never Too Late For Your Passions: Woman becomes Painter at 42

It is Never Too Late For Your Passions: Woman becomes Painter at 42   

The Name of an Artist

With a name like Margarita Gokun Silver, it’s hard to believe that the person who owns this name isn’t a hippie artist that lives in a sustainable solar-powered bungalow, brimming with essential oils and vibrant paintings.  But fate would have it that Silver is an immigrant from Russia, a writer, and has been published in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post, to name a few accolades.  In an article for Next Avenue, she tells the story about why she waited so long, until she was older, to go after a lifelong dream of painting, and why she is glad she did.

 

Humble Beginnings for a Painter

Silver recollects sitting and staring at her laptop, with the East coast outside her window, at a “pay” button for an Introduction to Oil Painting class.  She’d been pondering the bulletin for the  Ft. Lauderdale Art Academy for several weeks.  The class in question was a ten week class at $350, but she paused at the financial investment.  More than that, she’d grown up in an environment that was not kind to frivolities.  And art was about as frivolous as they come.  But it was evident that she really wanted to take it on.  She’d even been so far as to buy an easel years before.  

“‘You copy well,’ my mother once said after she saw my near-perfect replica of a Titian painting.  I was 15 then and had spent hours with a pencil sketching everything from the Admiralty building in St. Petersburg, Russia, to a portrait of WHAM, my teenage musical obsession. I loved creating shapes on paper and, despite insufficient formal instruction, my proportions and shading stood up against the originals. But neither my parents nor I thought of art as my future. For that, I’d have to have been raised in another family.”   

Silver grew up in the 1980’s in the Soviet Union, a society that offered only two paths in education: the sciences and the humanities.  And these two paths were often fiercely divided, like the Iron Curtain between Russia and the West.  What you ended up doing with your life was not your free choice, but often determined by the patterns and structure of your family.  Silver, unfortunate for her artistic inclinations, came from three generations of engineers and math Olympians.  So, unsurprisingly, fate found her drudging through the Moscow Institute of Oil and Gas, until one day an opportunity to move to the United States arose.  She saw it as a true opportunity to escape the rigidity of her home, and to finally dive into an artistic life that might actually reward her.  The idea was so seductive and enticing.  She convinced her Jewish family to emigrate.

 

But Not So Fast

Even as Silver considered a local liberal arts college in Southern New Hampshire, her parents still pushed her in another direction, suggesting she become a doctor.  To her parents, immigration still did not mean there was any time for frivolities.  Quite the opposite; being in a new country and new environment was the time to seize on high-paying gains.  Employing a skill that would lead to the top of the economic ladder was the most important, and only, goal.

“‘Besides, you’d be following in the footsteps of your grandmother,’ my mother said. ‘Babushka would have been so proud.’ My grandmother Betya, the sole physician in a family of engineers, had died 10 days before we left the Soviet Union. Even if I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor, how could I not honor my grandmother’s memory?  The old indoctrination won. I caved and applied to study pre-med.”

In a world of petri dishes and anatomy dummies, Silver’s writing course in college was her only solace. It didn’t take long for her to be overcome with her ennui, enough to realize that she was chasing the dreams of others, unlike her classmates who genuinely wanted to be there.  She also realized that she wasn’t even absorbing what she was learning, and it wasn’t due to insufficient English fluency.  She was perfectly fluent in English.  So she dropped out and left.  When she informed her parents, it didn’t go over so well.

“Their displeasure radiated Chernobyl-style all the way to New Hampshire from Ohio where they had moved for my father’s first job.”

Silver was surprised at herself, perhaps as much as her parents, that she wasn’t going to be the obedient daughter everyone had always expected.  It was finally time for her to press that “pay” button for that oil painting class, even if she was older than her young-artist-comrades.  It was now or never.

 

The Decision Led to an Exhibition  

And as fate would also have it, Margarita Silver had a natural-born talent for painting.  She got her oil on canvas, titled “Inner Child,” to be the prime entrance piece in the opening of the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art Academy alumni exhibition.  

“In it: two Earths, seemingly on a collision course with one another, a red ladder with street lanterns piercing the dark blue sky raised above them. One Earth — lit up, playful, a cord stretching to power the lanterns. Another — dry, repressed, illuminated only by a dim lamp hanging off the ladder…

‘It’s pretty,’ my mother says.

My father tilts his head to the side, a barely perceptible nod the only indication of his tepid approval.

‘Inner Child,’ my mother reads the name of the piece aloud, and then continues reading the plaque next to it: ‘This piece is meant to highlight how important our inner child is in our adult lives and how the light of this inner child can illuminate our decisions and ideas… only if we let it.’”

It was in this moment that Silver realized the least frivolous thing in life, is becoming your own person without apology.  It is one of the few very worthwhile things, and even key to aging into a fully-developed human being.  After a long journey, both figuratively and literally, Margarita Gokun Silver is finally the painter she always wanted to be.


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Comments

[1] Comment.
Juliana Mazzocca On May 24, 2017

I agree 100% After spending years at an unhappy, unloved lonely marriage and being largely a dilettante studying voice, ballet, piano into my middle years. Now I know that God who has give me a great voice is demanding me to use it and that is my goal whether professionally or nonprofessionally.