by Len Lear
Normally, when I ask an article subject for his/her age, the individual either mentions a number (most of the time) or declines to answer. But Joselyn Kinstler Ney, who says that answering my questions about her personal history is “like writing my eulogy,” gave me more than I bargained for.
“Biologically I am 82,” she said, “but since my face is still unwrinkled — well, mostly unwrinkled — and my body can be clothed to hide any signs of sagging and my hair hasn’t fallen all out (so I can keep it longer and fashionable rather than short and permed) and I can afford to dress in the style I look and feel best and I still enjoy the company and attention of men, including of course my husband, then please understand that my real age is 38.”
Ney, who has lived in Lafayette Hill for 50 years with her husband, Andy, is a talented artist whose works will be on exhibit throughout December at the Center on the Hill in the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill.
She came to Philly from Wilton, Connecticut, a half-century ago “because as a wife of the times, I went where my husband decided to go, and he was lured down here by SPS Technologies in Jenkintown. When I came here, I was shocked by how much more house our money could buy than in Wilton. It was so mind-boggling that we decided to build.”
In a previous Local article, Carole Verona reported that Ney’s father, Herbert, designed and made jewelry in New York City in the early 1940s:
“Joselyn remembers taking his customers’ checks from the bureau in the dining room and drawing — usually big Cinderella-like dresses — on the backs of them. One day her father discovered her artwork when he went to the bank to deposit the checks. ‘And boy, did I get it,’ Joselyn recalled with a laugh.
“Joselyn’s father died when she was only 9 years old. ‘My mother Molly was destitute and didn’t know what to do, so she went out and got a job in a dress shop. She stressed that I had to learn how to earn a living.’ So recognizing Joselyn’s artistic talent, her mother sent her to the High School of Music and Art and then to the Fashion Institute of Technology.”
In 1976, Ney started her own business, Designing Woman, a commercial interior design firm, which became one of the largest model home designers on the east coast, but she sold the business in the early 2000s and then started painting in earnest.
“I sold Designing Woman because I was burned out at the time,” Ney said recently. “I had lost 15 years of my life working day and night and worrying about staff, projects and shipping schedules, and I could go on for some time about all that was involved.
“I couldn’t spend the time I wanted to spend with my granddaughters. I couldn’t accompany my husband on some trips abroad. I wasn’t really active in any child’s schooling, and friends were usually put last. So I sold my company, but after a time I was aching for a good messy problem to solve and an active and adrenaline-filled day. But then the world started to open up, and my life became chock full of all that I love doing. Now is the best of times.”
Ney and her husband, a semiretired intellectual property lawyer, have three children, the youngest of whom is 50. “She is our ‘special’ child in many ways,” said the Lafayette Hill artist. “She may have Down Syndrome, but she has more common sense, personality and talent than many ‘normal’ people … In fact, had she not had a screwed up chromosome, she would probably have run for President of the U.S. And she would have won! The other two are older, and they are good people as well.”
Ney, who will have between 40 and 50 of her paintings — an equal mix of landscapes and flowers with a portrait and “something else” — in the December exhibit, has painted in watercolors for the last five years. “They have a fresh feeling that other mediums can’t achieve, but they are very undervalued by the buying public, so I have added acrylics and oils. Today, folks are expected to think outside of the box. I just love to get into other boxes!”
Ney had an elementary school teacher who said that we all love looking at landscapes as we grow older. “How true! I love to paint plein air. But after the weather turns very cold, I cheat. I do it inside from a window. I have a lot of snow scenes from various windows in my house. Is that still plein air?”
Ney also takes commissions such as a recent portrait of a golf club CEO who was retiring. “Sometimes I won a new project or decided to paint what I had never painted before. It always seems hard and beyond my capabilities when I start out, but with a little faith and a lot of trial and error, I fortunately figure it out.”
Also a docent at Woodmere Art Museum, Ney has had exhibits of her work at a New Hope art gallery, Rydal Park Retirement Community in Jenkintown and Cheltenham Art Center. When asked if she had any regrets in her life, she replied, “Yes, but at this stage in life, I seem to have forgotten what they were. Oh, I wish I had more money but only so I could give more to others I love or who are in need …
“I would have loved to be able to remember names, not only of people but books I’ve read and names of things and places I’ve been and seen. Also, I would have liked to be more patient with myself as well as others. It would have made my work and life much easier.”
When asked what famous people she would have liked to meet, Ney said, “Oscar Wilde at a dinner party, a shopping spree with Bette Davis or maybe Cary Grant. And definitely Fred Astaire at a dance!”
For more information about the exhibit, call 215-247-8855 or email firstname.lastname@example.org