Local artists growing older... and better

There is a time in life when it all comes together. You've had your marriage(s), your children, your career(s), your moves, your false starts and a few moments of transcendence.

You've quit, been fired and been hired, done brilliant/mediocre and not-so-hot work, made/squandered/saved/invested and lost money, spent too many miles driving from one place to another, climbed Fourteeners, worn uniforms, considered suicide, fallen in and out of love, buried your parents and cried inconsolably when your dog died.

Get to three score and 10, and what's left? As my childhood friend Tim Collins reminded me the other day, "After 70, it's all bonus time."

What you make of that time is up to you. Want to sit around the coffee shop every morning with your cronies and complain about Hillary Clinton? Want to move to Scottsdale, play golf and swap stories with your fellow geezers? Want to start a new business, take up skydiving or read all 20 volumes of the Harvard Classics? You can do whatever you want.

But remember — health, happiness and reasonable mental acuity in life's eighth and ninth decades are gifts. Don't throw them away. Time is not on your side.

My spouse and I ventured out last Friday night to see Betty Ross' show at the Fine Arts Center. I didn't really know what to expect, although I've known Betty for 35 years. While her work has matured and strengthened over the years, it has always been balanced between the abstract and the real.


"The gaps between abstraction and the real are actually what fascinate me as a painter," Ross says on her website, "often filled with a narrative or strong emotion that drives the process whether at a pond in Derbyshire, or a cabin in the Sangres."

The strongest of her new works are large-scale lyrical abstractions, almost untethered from the real. They're joyous cascades of color and line, fresh and compellingly alive, way beyond eye candy.

Ross, 80, is slender and energetic.

"You can't do anything about hands, can you?" she observed, holding her hand next to mine. "They show your age — maybe we should just wear gloves all the time!"

Her hands may show her age, but the work doesn't. Where did it come from? Ross shrugged, and smiled. "It [the new work] isn't all good. I look at it all lined up in the studio, and I know. But some of it is. I guess you could say, yeah, I can still get it up!"

Sometime in the early 1980s, I walked into Arati Artists Gallery on Colorado Avenue, where I bought a graceful figure study by Marian Busey. Her work then was accomplished and inventive — and it still is. On Friday, Busey, was one of two featured artists at Arati.

Busey, like Ross, has put her bonus time to good use, and she's had plenty of experience in doing so.

Marian Busey is 104.

Then there's Terry Pixley, my classmate at Colorado Springs High School. You may know Pixley, an active and highly visible figure in the real estate community for many decades.

Pix has done what so many geezers threaten to do, but never get around to doing — write a biography.

He dropped off a copy at the office a few weeks ago, and I was amazed. It was an engaging, fascinating read, as lighthearted, friendly and unpretentious as its author. C'mon, Pix, you're a car guy and real estate guy! What's with the book?

"Oh, I dunno, John," he answered. "I always wanted to write it, so I did."

Later at the FAC, I chatted with another old friend. Bob McAndrews, 77, has had an illustrious career as a teacher/mentor/educator, but back-of-the-pack local runners knew him as the guy you couldn't catch. Starting in 1976, McAndrews won his age group in the Pikes Peak Ascent or Marathon 10 times. He's still running, but concentrating on shorter distances, and training to build up speed.

We traded aging jock stories, and I told him about "Geezerman," the superfast old-guy cyclist I can never catch on Gold Camp Road.

"That's Don Ross," said McAndrews. "He was a really fast runner, but he gave it up when his knees/hips went. I'm surprised you can even get close to him."

I'm trying, Bob, I'm trying... and there's still some bonus time left!