Local abstract artist still going strong at age 95

Harold Garde's work on display

By Carolina Cardona - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - At 95 years old, an abstract expressionist artist is still going strong on canvas. 

For more than seven decades, Harold Garde's work has been seen throughout Central Florida and several other states.

Garde said the stroke of the brush helps to keep him active.

"Let's me know I'm alive. I have something to show for it," Garde said.

As he's grown in years, his work has grown in size.

"So then that's why I work bigger now, 'cause I need to have a bigger statement about living," Garde said as he painted on a wall-sized canvas in his New Smyrna Beach home. 

At 95, Garde paints every day. His career began when he was in his 20s after he served for the U.S. Air Force during World War II. 

"One of the ways that happened with the GI Bill is that universities, to take advantage of the students and veterans, started making art programs so they can get the tuition and teach art," Garde said.

He said at that age, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do but today, he's an abstract expressionist artist who also invented the Strappo technique, which is a combination of painting with printmaking.

Currently, his work can be seen at the Mills Gallery in Orlando. It's titled "Burn this down: Reflections on the Art World."

"Art in my time, you never expected it to be selling anything -- it was no part of it, today art is being judged all by its price and not by its intellectual value," Garde said. 

Gallery owner Boris Garbe said Harold tells it like it is with no filter.

"He is an artist that paints exclusively for himself. He doesn't paint to satisfy an audience or to try to achieve the critics heart," Garbe said.

It's something today's generation seems to appreciate more.

"Young people love the idea that this older man that's 95, is so angry and so upset with how things are going in the world right now. The inequalities, the injustice. He's not just an old man that sits over there drinking his coffee watching you look at his art. He wants to talk to you and he wants to engage you," Garbe said.

Garde said he wants his art to go beyond the canvas. 

"I want it to be an experience of one individual, me, to another individual who I may not even know but I would like it to say: This is something worth looking at. This is some -- I can learn more about who I am, then trying to figure out what the artist wants me to see," Garde said.

Most of his paintings are of human figures and structural shapes such as chairs and vases.

"What I want you to see, if you start looking at it, start looking at this and you begin to get an emotional response," Garde said.

Many of his creations have sequence numbers.

"You will see the number three in Harold's painting a lot. This could be about middle age. You know, the young person, the middle age person, the old person. You can interpret it any way you want," the gallery owner said.

Either way, he's an artist with a sense of humor.

"There's not much else I can do. I don't chase pretty ladies," Garde said.

Still, he never thought his work would come this far. 

"I never expected to be this old," Garde said.

So which artist does he look up to?

"Me. Oh yeah, nobody is that good. There's so many, so many really good people, but my battle, my war is with myself and learning."

Garde's exhibit runs through May 5. The gallery is located at 1650 N. Mills Ave. and it's open six days a week. 

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