A late bloomer, 75-year-old uses her art to thrive

Sue Scheible

Myrna Friedman is both a survivor and a late bloomer. One led to the other.

She was in her 50s when she finally began doing watercolor painting. It was something she’d wanted to do since high school, but life intervened.

First, she had to get through an early marriage, caring for three children (including two disabled sons, one of whom was placed in an institution), depression, alcoholism, divorce, cancer, remarriage and being widowed.

It is quite a list of trials, some of which were self-imposed. Now 75, she relates her story with an acceptance of what has been and a quiet pride in her determination to overcome.

“I’ve had a hard life, but it’s been a good life,” she said. “Getting older can be joyful. It doesn’t have to be sad. Look at her.”

She points to a photograph of an older woman leaping gleefully into the air.

Friedman, who is mostly self-taught, works in both watercolors and oils. She uses bright, bold colors to portray aging with humor and affection. She teaches privately and in the Milton Adult Education program, and she sells some works to buy supplies.

Starting today, she is having a one-woman show, “The Vitality of Life,” at the Frame-It Studio and Gallery at 588 Randolph Ave., Milton. An opening reception will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday and the show will continue through Nov. 15.

Her daughter, Mindy Mazur, 54, of Milton, believes Friedman’s art saved her.

“We have a saying: ‘Mental illness doesn’t run in the family; it gallops,’” Mazur said. “My mother always had the talent but couldn’t use it. Then she decided to go for it in her 50s. Look at what she had to overcome.”

Born in the Bronx, Friedman married young and became a secretary. When her son David, 51, was placed in an institution at age 6, she became depressed and began drinking. Then her marriage ended. After getting divorced 30 years ago, she joined AA and got sober.

At age 43, she was treated for breast cancer. She was widowed eight years after marrying her second husband. She moved to Boston in 1991.

“Everything changed when I came here,” she said.

Antidepressants helped. Art was accessible and affordable. She joined seven art associations and “got a shoe box full of prizes. And Frame-It Studio took me in.”

She uses a loose, impressionistic style, often showing people from the back. Viewers read their own emotions and stories into her art.

“I tried painting traditional portraits, showing people from the front, and they didn’t sell,” Friedman said. “Nobody buys a portrait of someone else.”

In “Whispers,” a man and woman are walking, their backs to the viewer, heads tilted.

“It touches a feeling,” she says. “You identify with the feeling.”

Friedman is happiest when she is painting.

On the canvas before her “I just want to capture a moment in time.”

To see her work, go to

Reach Sue Scheible at 617-786-7044, E-mail or write to The Patriot Ledger, P.O. Box 699159, Quincy 02269-9159.