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Artist has her first show ― at age 82

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Published : 2014-06-11 20:02
Updated : 2014-06-11 20:02

PHILADELPHIA ― Patricia Ray Guckes’ husband never wanted her to work. So she painted.

Up at 5 every morning, before her husband and two daughters, Guckes sat on a stool facing her easel in the kitchen of her Lower Moreland, Pennsylvania, home.

She imagined pretty pictures and painted them, many smaller than a playing card. Then the chaos of the morning took over.

For decades, Patty Ray Guckes’ routine yielded portraits, ocean scenes, and paintings of delicately rendered birds, but only recently did she exhibit in her first show ― at age 82.
Patty Guckes, an 82-year-old artist who specializes in the tiny paintings that hang inside dollhouses, poses with some of her work in her Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania, home, May 15. (Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT)

This month, Guckes was one of several artists featured in a small show at Abington Memorial Hospital. She has booked another for the fall, and a gallery owner in Lambertville, New Jersey, wants to see more of her work.

Family had taken precedence over her hobby, but one of her daughters died in 2010 and her husband died in December while she was with him on a cruise.

“My neighbor said, ‘What are you going to do with your life?’” Guckes said. She said she responded, “I always wanted to be a famous artist.”

In the ninth decade of her life, that is what Guckes is setting out to do. She has enough product. The paintings fill her home ― against walls, under beds and even in the shower stalls of a house outfitted with furnishings that look as if they came from the set of “Mad Men.”

That is just one of the ways that Guckes seems a woman from another time. She says her husband, James, did everything.

He made the money, paid the bills and drove the car.

“I never even had an allowance,” Guckes said. “He said, you don’t need it. I’ll buy you anything you want.”

James Guckes, a mechanical engineer and businessman, kept his wife sheltered from the “stress and problems” of everyday life, said the couple’s daughter, Patricia Lee Wilson of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. But now, there is no longer a shelter.

“I showed her how to pay a bill, and she’s been paying them ever since,” Wilson said of the time since her father died. “She even called a plumber over to fix the sink.”

Guckes plans to buy a car and start driving again, after years of relying on her husband or her own feet. When he didn’t drive her, Guckes walked the 5.6 kilometers to Willow Grove Park or the grocery.

By Kristin E. Holmes

(The Philadelphia Inquirer)

(MCT Information Services)

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