In the Pipeline: Centered on the creative mind

February 04, 2014|By Chris Epting
  • LeeAnn Yater with her mom, 95-year-old Jane Yater, at the Huntington Beach Art Center.
LeeAnn Yater with her mom, 95-year-old Jane Yater, at… (Chris Epting, HB…)

"She's a one-of-a-kind," Kate Hoffman, executive director at the Huntington Beach Art Center, tells me. "We had over 1,300 people here the other night, 543 pieces from 259 artists. And we have nobody else like her."

Hoffman is talking about Jane Yater.

The center's annual and wildly popular open-call, non-juried exhibition, "Centered on the Center," opened Saturday.

Of the many talented artists exhibiting their work, Yater stands out.

First, she is 95 years old. She also has advanced Alzheimer's disease and has trouble remembering things more than just a few minutes old, though her long-term memory seems quite sharp.

But see her watercolors hanging in the gallery, and you'll know what truly makes Yater so special.

In rich, vibrant and vivid tones, she captures nature in its delicate elegance. Roses, bougainvillea and other flowers seem to be her specialty.

But since we're talking about someone who has been painting for more than nine decades, no doubt she has an eye for many compelling visual subjects.


Jane's daughter, LeeAnna, an impressive artist herself, explained why it's so important to help her mother show her work in Huntington Beach.

"My mother has always been an artist," she said. "She raised my sister and I as a single parent, selling ceramics that she made in her own pottery studio. But she has always been a painter at heart. Helping her show her work is just my way of helping her remain vital.

"She still loves to paint, and so as long as she can be creative, I want to do whatever I can to help call attention to her work. She showed me what it meant to be an artist my whole life."

The Yaters moved to the area last year from Florida. But Jane spent a lot of time in Northern California, having moved there from New York City when she was a young girl.

Cousin to the legendary actress Claire Trevor, Yater spent time on movie sets as a teen. She also opened a children's clothing store in Beverly Hills that catered to the likes of Elizabeth Taylor.

But it's the painting that has been her most consistent creative endeavor.

The memory loss started becoming severe about 10 years ago. And while today Yater can recite the names of classmates from 80 years ago, the details of an immediate conversation come and go, like a feather fluttering in the breeze.

It's not like she isn't full of life. Her eyes twinkle and she perks up throughout the conversation, chiming in now and again in a lilting, engaged voice.

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