Still life – in her!
Upper West Sider Henrietta Mantooth is painting – and exhibiting – at the tender age of 97.
Mantooth, whose pieces have been shown at the Ford Foundation Gallery and MOMA in Brazil, had exhibited her work at the Launch Party on February 16th on Columbus Avenue for the Gold Standard Arts Festival – which celebrates older artists.
“I really love being old,” the feisty artist, set designer and performer told The Post. “There’s an excitement and a freedom in a lot of ways. And I feel like I’m reading a history book, and all of these experiences offer me knowledge that presents itself without conscious effort.”
It was Mantooth’s love of news — she graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism — that originally brought the Kansas City native to the Big Apple.
“I graduated in 1945, just as World War II was over, and I went to New York. I thought this was the right place. I was excited to go to the big city. However, since male reporters returned from Europe and Asia at the end of the war, it was difficult for a woman to get a journalistic job. I worked odd jobs and ended up getting research work at Publishers Weekly.”
In 1947, through Latin American journalists she had met in college, she landed a job in Caracas, Venezuela (Spanish had been her minor in college). She worked there at the English newspaper The Caracas Journal and soon got a job at the American International Association, “where she would travel to rural villages in remote areas, speaking to farmers and their families and writing their stories.”
She did this job for five years before being transferred to Brazil where she learned Portuguese. “Inspired by my visions of the simple peasant people I wrote about, I began to draw and paint their forms and reconnected with my talent as a child when I was often the class painter at school.”
In 1952 she married an American journalist in Brazil and, in her free time from her writing job, began studying art, which she eventually completed in Paris, Italy and Greece.
“I became a full-time artist and in 1961 began exhibiting my work in Brazilian museum exhibitions and at the Sao Paulo Biennial. My two sons were born in 1958 and 1960, and we moved to New York in 1962 where I started exhibiting my paintings,” she explained, adding, “Abstract Expressionism was the exciting art that’s happening here and I loved the work of that.” Artists: Pollock, DeKooning…”
She was also involved in theater, creating original sets for Off-Off-Broadway theater and collegiate theater, where she also taught as an artist in residence.
Mantooth has lived in the same brownstone on West 81st Street — between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive — for 60 years.
The charming ninety-year-old describes her work as a “witness” as it focuses on those “who are usually nameless – refugees, rebels, farmers, men and women who nurture and defend their lands, homes, children, animals and ideas.” .
The historical figures she would have liked to have painted are Eleanor Roosevelt, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Martin Luther King Jr. and Pablo Picasso, whom she adores “because he was an improviser”.
One thing hasn’t changed for Mantooth: “Every time you pick up a paintbrush to make something new, it’s a risk. … it is addictive.”
https://nypost.com/2022/03/19/nyc-resident-henrietta-mantooth-is-still-painting-at-97/ New York-based Henrietta Mantooth is still painting at 97