Yesterday I had the pleasure of sharing an afternoon with one of the most gracious, Super Achiever, Artists, of our time: Martha Longenecker. Martha started out as a painter, and back in the ’50s became enamored with Pottery and Ceramics. There was a noted group in California then, in crafts and ceramics. Martha was part of this group, and she also traveled to Japan in those days. There, she became acquainted with the famous pottery master, Hamada. He took a liking to this charming woman, and she was invited back to Japan many times. Fast forward to the 1960’s, where I met Martha teaching Ceramics and pottery throwing, at San Diego State University. She was imbued with a passion and a spirit for aesthetics that was contagious.
She became a great influence in my life, and we mutually adored each other. Fast forward again: Martha retired from SDSU, and went on to found the Mingei Museum in Balboa Park, San Diego. She was the founding director, and a most wonderful, unique institution grew under her tutiledge. It is now one of the most popular musuems of Folk Art in the United States. There are many backers, and endowments from knowing individuals, who saw the amazing work she did, with the best of taste and quality. Truly the Mingei Museum is one of the treasures of San Diego, CA.
Martha is 90 now. I invited her over to visit, and to see the modern home I built on a hillside. I thought she would enjoy the view. She amazed me yet, again! Driving her own car, she whirled into my home, and drunk it all in, in a few moments. She was complimentary, and wanted to try sitting in the low Barcelona chair. I was worried that at her age, she would have trouble maneuvering. Not her! She sat, experienced the chair, and then said she would like to try sitting in the Corbusier chaise lounge. This is no easy feat. Once in it, it is difficult to get out! Martha would not be discouraged. In it she went, and loved the way it supports your back. She had no trouble at all, at 90 years of age, maneuvering that sculpture of a chair. I was very impressed with this, and with everything she said in the next two hours of our chat. She is charming, open, willing to share ideas, personal feelings, and enthusiastic to relate all the upcoming lectures, and talks she has been invited to give, at various insitutions around our state. She is being inducted into a local Woman’s hall of fame. She is really about 50 years old in her mind and in her actions! I was so impressed. What is it that keeps one enthused with life? What keeps us “outside” ourselves, as we grow older, not dwelling on how our bodies hurt, but what next, can we learn? How can we participate in the joys of our lives, even at 80 or 90 years of age? This woman gave me such an inspiring lift, yesterday…and her spirit that impressed me in 1965, is still there, inspiring and uplifting us all.
Bravo, Martha Longeneker. I hope you will live to 110!