Older artists display newly discovered talent in exhibit

Carl Rothblum was 80 years old when he painted for the first time, at San Francisco's Jewish Home for the Aged.

"It was so relaxing," he said. "Painting just makes you forget all your troubles and believe me, there's a lot of people here with problems."

Rothblum, along with three other residents of the Home, displayed their work in the seventh annual Art with Elders exhibit, which included a showing at San Francisco's M.H. de Young Memorial Museum.

Though Rothblum had no previous experience painting before coming to the Home, he made his living in a visually creative field.

"All the ashtrays that people used to steal from hotels and restaurants, I designed them," he said.

Rothblum's contribution to the exhibit is a tempera painting of a green and yellow parakeet.

The painters are guided by Gary Tanner, the creative arts director, and Alex Koronatov, an art specialist. The Jewish Home for the Aged has ongoing art therapy every day, except Shabbat.

"The instructors that we have here are fabulous." Rothblum said. "They're very knowledgeable. They're very kind."

The Art with Elders exhibit is a project of the San Francisco Ministry to Nursing Homes, an interfaith organization of volunteers who visit the institutionalized elderly and engage them in a variety of activities. The exhibit has 61 paintings that will be on display at various locations throughout the year.

The Art with Elders exhibit opened Oct. 8 at the de Young.

"Oh, such a thrill," Etta Perkins, 72, said about seeing her work displayed. Perkins, too, had no experience painting before she came to the home. She's been painting for the last 3-1/2 years.

Perkins has been nicknamed "the cat lady" because of her fondness for painting cats. Her contribution to the Art with Elders exhibit is a white cat with large, green eyes. "I think the eyes are the most beautiful thing."

Volf Feferman, another of the showcased artists, prefers painting figures. His exhibited piece is of a woman in a white robe. Feferman, who was born in the Ukraine, speaks little English. A former accountant on a collective farm, he came to the States five years ago to be near his son. He now paints four hours a day. "It's sort of a therapy," he said.

One of the artists, Joseph Rose, died shortly after the exhibit opened but lived to see his painting of a dog and cat against a purple background displayed in the de Young.