Mon June 18, 2012
Green Bay photo exhibit features women over the age of 90
Popular culture celebrates the young and beautiful. A photo exhibit in Green Bay this month celebrates the old and beautiful with portraits of women over the age of ninety.
The exhibit opening at the Green Bay’s Art Garage cooperative had the usual wine and mingling. But there were also rocking chairs, doilies and lots of old women.
And they don't mind being called "old." Dot Korzilisu says she is old. Her portrait was taken during her ninetieth birthday champagne brunch. "My interest in life that keeps me young,” she says. “I go to a lot of Bon Jovi concerts. My son happens to be his manager so I get to go to a lot of rock concerts. A lot of the bands, Queen, Cheap Trick and all those bands I get to go to . My husband did too when he was alive."
Korzilisu says her birthday theme song was Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer."
People in their nineties would have been born in 1922 or earlier, a time when many homes didn't have running water or electricity, let alone things like cars or radios. Jean Kozak lived on a farm in Sturtevant, she now lives in Kenosha. "It's really changed,” she says.
For her ninetieth birthday Kozak's grandchildren got her an i-pad, which she says she enjoys very much.
The photographer behind the exhibit is Kara Counard. She started rounding up nonagenarians in December and has been taking pictures and interviewing them ever since.
Instead of the Hollywood approach to airbrushing Counard says her work acknowledges that older people have 'earned their stripes.' "When I edit photos I barely edit the older people,” she says. “When I do babies and little children I smooth their skin out, I do so much more photo retouching with them than older people. I love the wrinkles and I use a lot of hands in many of the portraits. Because I think hands tell so much of the story. So sometimes when they'd be talking I'd photograph the hands."
Thirty-three women from around Wisconsin are featured. Counard says some of their stories are just as interesting as their images...with one telling of an encounter with an escaped convict, nuns who worked with disabled children, and activists. "Carmella Blecha was the inspiration for the project. She was an, she is an environmentalist… she worked tirelessly with Gaylord Nelson to get the Apostle Islands declared a national shoreline."
Besides aesthetics Counard says she chose women over ninety partly because there are more of them than men over ninety.
Jean Kozak is softspoken but seems to appreciate the interest in women of her generation. "At first I didn't care to be photographed, I'm a little shy,” she says. “My daughter talked me into it."
That daughter is Diane Maddern. She says her mother is a woman of few words, but that demeanor hides a vibrant personality. "Life life to the fullest,” she says. “She's like a, I don't mean it in a bad way, she's like a little kid at Christmas. She's just, everything is fun to her."
Not a bad way to live the better part of a century. The exhibit at the Art Garage runs through the end of the month.