Our worlds tend to get smaller as we age, but 92-year-old artist Cy Seymour is proof you can change course – and open up your world – at any age
Cy Seymour was well into retirement when he decided it was time to shake things up. “I played tennis and golf like most folk here in Florida and I enjoyed it immensely, but there was something missing from my life,” explains the 92-year-old former ad man, who’s originally from New York.
That “something” turned out to be a second act as a contemporary artist, with a slick website and online store. One of his paintings is due to be auctioned off at a glamorous charity fundraiser in Palm Beach*, and there are whispers of interest from local galleries. “It’s renewed my sense of purpose, and why should age deter me from creating a name for myself in the artworld?”
Since renting a studio on a whim a few years ago “to get out of my wife’s hair all day”, Cy has refined his technique, which evokes the abstract expressionism made popular by Jackson Pollock in the 1940s and 50s. Like Pollock’s famous “drip” technique, Cy’s process is intensely physical, with the artist layering a palette of colors onto a large canvas laid out on the floor. “I sometimes think my technique is how Pollock may have evolved had he lived longer,” says Cy. “And the constant movement around the canvas certainly keeps me fit!”
This freeform approach results in paintings that sing with life, provoking intense emotions. “I’ve always been fascinated by the power of color and how it affects people,” he explains. “Each painting tells a different story – there’s no repetition.”
Unique color schemes are meticulously researched, drawing on a library of thousands of art books amassed over the decades, although, ultimately, he insists, the creative process comes naturally. “I’ve always had a sense of color and composition, but the process of experimentation has helped to hone my craft.”
THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Although he attended art school in his youth, Cy’s first career in advertising saw him sidestep into sales. His natural ebullience the secret weapon to several successful tenures at high profile New York agencies, before setting up shop on his own. It was the 1960s and 70s and the “Golden Age of Advertising” was in full swing. “My company created work for prestigious accounts such as Chanel, Revlon, and the original Volkswagen Beetle, as well as movie titles for Planet of the Apes, among many others. It was definitely a decadent period. I guess you can say I was one of the original ‘Mad Men’.”
There have been, of course, plenty of colorful stories along the way. Like the time in Cy’s first ad job as an errand boy where he was tasked with throwing drawings discarded by the artists, one of whom was Andy Warhol. “If only I’d kept a couple,” he muses.
But by the mid-1980s, however, the industry was changed beyond recognition and the advent of computers persuaded Cy to bow out gracefully and retire to Florida after more than 30 years in the advertising world.
THE BIG PICTURE
These days, Cy spends three or four days a week creating new artwork in his studio and has amassed more than 200 pieces in his collection. The commercial art world, he admits, is overwhelming, but that hasn’t stopped him dipping his toe into the local art scene. “It would be great to see them catch on. Just some recognition for all the hard work that goes into them,” he explains.
One of his biggest cheerleaders is daughter Nicole (inaugural MCC member and collaborator), who’s taken on the role of Cy’s unofficial agent and manager. “I love how the new world operates, but I’m from the Stone Age, so it’s thanks to my daughter that I’m able to promote my work via my website and social media. And how wonderful if it launches a new career for me. It goes to show, it’s never too late!”
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