Age really is nothing but a number. Another cliché would say that you’re never too old to start doing things. Painter Frieda Lefeber is a testament to such thoughts as she holds her first ever art exhibit at age 100.
The German-born artist now based in Penn Valley, PA is actually a retired nurse, mother, grandmother, and Holocaust survivor. With so many things she’s carrying on the weight of her shoulders, she really found the time to serve her passion for the arts. She only started painting in 1991 at age 76 when she took art classes at Rosemont College.
By age 83, she had earned her certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. “It kept me young,” Frieda said in an interview. “I have to be busy constantly,” she described. By 2003 at age 88 she had already published her colorful autobiography “Frieda’s Journey.”
As a nurse, she cared for some renowned people, including a fellow late-in-life artist and painter, Grandma Moses. So how did painting come into play at such a later time in her life, you might ask? It was way after that when Frieda’s interest in painting grew.
“I didn’t know that I had any talent,” she said. “I never had any desire to paint except when my daughter was a little girl, I made a little painting of her. Somebody saw my little painting many years afterward and said, ‘You have talent!’”
Those three words were enough of an encouragement for her as she enrolled at Rosemont. Pat Nugent, a faculty member and the director of the Lawrence Gallery where Frieda’s first ever solo exhibition is on display, recalls, “She came in and she wanted to learn so badly.”
“I told her what to do, and I walked on, but she stopped me and said, ‘How do I do that, Pat? How do I do that?’ (She’d do that) every few minutes!” Pat remembers, being one of Frieda’s first painting teachers. “I thought, either I’m going to think it’s funny or it will make you crazy, and I decided it was funny. Soon, the regular-age students kept saying the same thing: ‘How do we do that, Pat?’”
Frieda began taking three painting classes a day, going from Rosemont, to the Wayne Art Center to PAFA where she started working toward a bachelor’s degree. However, she admittedly said her tendency to fall asleep in class became quite a burden. Still she was able to graduate with a certificate.
Sadly, Frieda has fewer works in the recent years as she said it’s hard for her to stand and paint for over half an hour at a time. “I don’t paint that much anymore like I used to. I used to paint for hours at a stretch, sometimes in the middle of the night,” she said. However, she added that, “I always have something on my easel.”
Here are just a few of Frieda’s 65 retrospective works on display right now:
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View “Frieda Lefeber: Her Life and Her Art” at Lawrence Gallery at Rosemont College through April 7th.
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