Art Is a Personal Issue for Woman Who Started Painting at Age 76

By Shoemaker, Ray | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 6, 1997 | Go to article overview

Art Is a Personal Issue for Woman Who Started Painting at Age 76


Shoemaker, Ray, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Ray Shoemaker Daily Herald Correspondent

Ninety-five-year-old artist Margaret Salem sits in her Lake Zurich home, on her way to finishing her latest creation - a vivid watercolor depiction of the majestic Austrian Lipissaner horses and their trainers. Watercolor is her most cherished medium the last 10 years, but she has dabbled in oil and acrylics as well.

What appears to have once been a dining room is now a gorgeous mess - a table cluttered with cups and brushes, rags and ruffled papers, smeared with colors of blue, red and yellow.

"My studio," Salem says proudly, with all the Bohemian bravado of a young Wicker Park artist.

This is the artistic nucleus in her home of 52 years; the place where she has conceived many great paintings that have won her numerous first place blue ribbons in art exhibits throughout Illinois and Wisconsin.

Her latest exhibit was at the College of Lake County's annual artists' showcase at the Grayslake campus. It is one of Salem's simpler works, called "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?", and it depicts a series of three store windows, one of which features a curious little Chihuahua. It is her tribute to one of her two beloved dogs that recently died.

Salem has been drawing and painting since she was 76 years old, when she enrolled as an art student at the College of Lake County. In the nearly 20 years after her introduction to her craft, she has become an independent talent. But Salem stresses that nobody is ever done learning. This summer, she will enter her 19th year as a CLC art student, insisting that she learns just as much about painting from her fellow students as she does from her teachers.

"They have wonderful teachers there," Salem says of the college's faculty. "I have learned so much."

She gives fond credit to her mentor, Edmund Kanwischer, now retired, who was her first teacher, and remained her teacher for 15 years.

Salem's approach to painting also involves her love of photography. She takes pictures of her chosen subjects and transfers the pictures to small slides. From there, she makes careful drawings of the slides and begins painting from her illustrations.

"To be able to take a little picture, and make something so big out of it for everybody to enjoy - it's just great," she says, still surprised at the fulfillment it brings her. …

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