A Late Bloomer Takes on the L.A. Art Market

Deborah Blum

Artist Deborah Blum is a late bloomer, and like other women artists who have come into their own late in life, she is just now hitting her stride. Blum brings the full force of a long and rich life experience to her recent work. Her style is simple and accessible, her spirit buoyant. In a sense she has forged a new genre; one critic calls her the "preeminent folk artist of contemporary Los Angeles."

If a folk artist seems antithetical to your idea of Los Angeles, a fast-paced and teeming metropolis, think again. There are many things about Deborah Blum that defy stereotypes. The first is her evolution as an artist.

For many the word artist is synonymous with youth and rebellious creativity. The portrait of the artist, usually a wild-eyed young man, splattered in paint, assaulting an enormous canvas, was a familiar stereotype. And for many years, this stereotype was born out by the facts on the ground. Until recently, it was usual for male artists to receive all the attention and acclaim, and with that, a high price tag for their work. Women, on the other hand, were ignored.

The fact is, historically, women artists have come into their artistic talent much later than their male counterparts. Whether it is due to the exigencies of child-rearing, or the fact that the female maturation process moves at a different pace, women have not been daunted by the passing years. The female brain interprets reality differently, taking into consideration varied life experiences, and rendering their interpretation as images on a canvas.

As an example of a late bloomer, take the New England folk artist Anna Moses, known by the nickname Grandma Moses. Moses did not begin painting in earnest until she was 78. Her simple realism, folksy style, and luminous colors, caught the spirit of early 20thCentury rural America. It didn't take long for her paintings to catch fire and when they did, they were bought for many museum collections, and at auction, canvases sold for well over one million dollars.

Deborah Blum is 71 years old. She has worked as a storyteller for most of her adult life, both as a writer and a filmmaker. She has sold ideas for feature films (Clean and Sober starring Michael Keaton) and for three decades she wrote and directed television documentaries for Discovery and the History Channel. She has also authored two non-fiction books. Throughout, Blum continued to paint.

When asked how long it takes her to complete a painting, Blum often says "just a few minutes," adding that "it's the idea that took me a long time to find." And as in all great art, it's the idea that counts.