60 isn’t the time to slow down
Lynette O’Kane likes to quote a mother of the women’s movement, Gloria Steinem, when someone tells her she doesn’t look her age. Steinem, on being told she didn’t look her age famously said, “This is what 40 looks like.”Now we’re talking 60, but the quote still applies.O’Kane, who will turn 60 in February, and who definitely doesn’t look her age, is philosophical about entering her seventh decade.”You are as old as you feel,” she said. Age for her is “primarily an internal thing,” but she also admits, “I’m not immune to the cultural influence of youth.”On a misty day with snow blanketing the hills above her home on Four Mile Creek, O’Kane spoke about her nomadic life and how it brought her to the valley she now calls home.O’Kane grew up in Denver and met husband Jock Jacober in seventh grade. “We went to prom together,” she said. But marriage to Jock would only happen after many years and many adventures.Her adventurous side came out early in life. “I left as soon as I could” after graduating from high school, she said.In fact, she moved about as far east as it was possible to go to enroll in art school in Philadelphia in what is now the University of the Arts. After college she worked for a few years in an art gallery in suburban Philadelphia and taught art classes on the side.
Then she felt the need to return to the West. Back in Denver she met her first husband, Mark O’Kane, a budding filmmaker who was taking classes at the University of Denver and working nights at the Wright McGill “fishhook” factory, she said.Mark eventually made a career out of film work and is well known as “one of the top steadicam operators in the world,” she said. Hands-free steadicams are mounted on the body of the cameraman and allow close-up, “tracking” shots often used in action movies.Mark and Lynette married and the couple traveled to locations of movie shoots in Thailand, Austria, Africa and Hawaii.From the many objects of Asian art in her home it’s apparent the East had a strong influence on her both artistically and spiritually.Thailand was a new and different experience.”Getting off the plane I just knew I wasn’t in Kansas any more,” she said. While her husband was shooting the movie, “Air America,” in northern Thailand, she spent time among the Hmong hill people, learning about their lives.Some years later, in her 40s, O’Kane gave birth to daughter Briana. Having a child did not slow the couple down, and with Briana, who was then a toddler, in tow, they went to Vienna, Austria, for the shooting of “The Three Musketeers.””I loved it,” O’Kane said. She’d also been invited to exhibit her art work in Germany and had work in galleries in Munich, Frankfort and Nürnberg.The travel also shaped her art. “My travel informed my work so much,” she said. “I have a strong sense of place.”
O’Kane’s art is unique. She works in layers of plaster on canvas, which gives her art a luminous, dream-like quality.”I love the feel of warm plaster and how it reveals itself over time,” she said.She’s also seen her work change. A current exhibit in the Colorado Mountain College gallery in downtown Glenwood Springs shows brighter, bolder color. “That’s come with age,” she said. “All of it is pure joy.”Eventually her life with her first husband ended and she moved with Briana to the small town of La Veta in southern Colorado. “I was just ready for the rural life,” she said.While she was there she also reconnected with her sweetheart from seventh grade, Jock Jacober, and moved to the Roaring Fork Valley, where they married and now have a home. She and Jacober built their straw-bale house a few years ago and they have filled it with an eclectic mix of furniture and art styles that reflect their wide-ranging tastes.Rather than settling into a slower lifestyle, the step-grandmother of four has thrown herself into community causes.”You see life as a tapestry, and some of the threads repeat,” O’Kane said. Life for her is about living with creative energy and for taking on the elder’s role of giving back. She has served for about three years as a trustee of the Garfield County libraries and is a vocal supporter of the move to create a self-sustaining library district. “Libraries are a passion of mine. They could and should be the heartbeat of the town,” she said. She also feels the county libraries “are on the cusp of growth” and with a district in place they could fill that central community role.
The library district question and financing mechanism will be on the November ballot.O’Kane is part of a group called Friends of Four Mile, which is dedicated to maintaining water quality in the creek. And she’s currently a DJ-in-training at Carbondale’s public radio station, KDNK.She also jokes about some other more mundane but equally revealing “senior” activities. “They hit every mark of seniorhood,” she laughed. “I’ve got (reading) glasses, I joined the bird club and I’m thinking about joining the garden club.”Sandwiched between all this community work, O’Kane is also producing art like mad and has three upcoming exhibits, one in February at the Artists Mercantile in Glenwood Springs, at Remmi Fine Art in Denver in April and at the Red Brick Art Center in Aspen in early summer.Travel is also still in her blood. “I’d like to travel with Briana (who is 14) before she goes out on her own, which could be any minute now.”O’Kane is definitely living the Steinem maxim: She’s what 60 looks like.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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