How 100-Year Old Artist Carmen Herrera Stays Sharp

The Cuban centenarian with a new show at Lisson Gallery runs on café con leche.

Carmen Hererra

This May is a big month for Carmen Herrera. On Tuesday, the abstract painter is inaugurating the new Lisson Gallery outpost in New York with a solo show, and a few weeks later, she’s turning no less than 101 years old. Born in Havana in 1915, Herrera’s only about a decade into mainstream recognition of her painting, though she’s been at it for nearly 80 years. (“If you wait for the bus, the bus will come,” she’s said about her late-breaking fame.) Stretching up to five feet wide, her newest works are ambitious as ever, and give a taste of what’s to come in her survey at the Whitney Museum of Art this September. How does she do it all? To start, with café con leche at the Manhattan studio she’s lived and worked in since 1954.

First thing you do in the morning: Café con leche, toast, butter and jam, orange juice, and work …

Books on your bedside table right now: The London Times Literary Supplement; recently, I have been struggling with Albert Camus.

Last piece of art you bought, or ogled: Zurbarán‘s monastery paintings seen in situ … in my mind’s eye.

Best new poet you’ve read recently: Emily Dickinson is as modern as I have gotten, but occasionally I look at my old friend Louis Zukofsky.

How you get your news: I watch the news from Spain on the TV and read the Sunday New York Times all week…

Photos: How 100-Year Old Artist Carmen Herrera Stays Sharp

Carmen Herrera, 2015. Photo by Jason Schmidt, © Lisson Gallery.

“Costa del Sol,” 2015. Acrylic on canvas. © Carmen Herrera, courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

“Alba,” 2014. Acrylic on canvas. © Carmen Herrera, courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

“El Muro Roja,” 2015. © Carmen Herrera, courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

With husband Jesse Loewenthal in 1965.

At work in Havana in 1941.

In Washington Square Park in 1940.

At Pier 2 in New York in the 1940s.

At work in 1947.

Near Cerro de la Silla in Monterrey in 1939.

With her husband, Jesse Loewenthal in Montparnasse in 1948.

With her mother, Carmela, in 1939.