Friday, June 8, 2012

Art and Alzheimer's



Even though this project began as an attempt at creating an encaustic look with acrylic paints and mediums, I will now say that that is NOT what happened. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained... I have learned a lot through exploring a large variety of materials while working on this piece.
 I used tissue paper, 2 different gel mediums, acrylic paint, charcoal, string, metallic patio paint, and watersolubule crayons. I scratched into the surface of the gel mediums and rubbed colors into the grooves. I was really excited about the interesting textures and depth that resulted from rubbing color into the grooves and over the texture of the tissue paper. I am pleased with the blended, aged effect that resulted from rubbing the metallic paint over the textured acrylic paint and wiping some of it away with a baby wipe (a trick I learned from Traci Bunkers) I like the way the charcoal and string lend depth and an organic quality to the composition.

"Erase"
Michelle O'Connor
Mixed Media on Canvas

I mentioned in an earlier post that there was a concept in my mind as I worked through this. I was thinking about my dad, who passed away far too young in November after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. An incredibly smart man with a great sense of humor, who was a successful business man and talented in art and music, fell victim to the mind erasing disease at far too young an age.


The symptoms in the beginning were subtle enough to dismiss as simple forgetfulness or shrugged off as Dad just acting his sometimes-typically weird self. Before long, the disease progressed to the point where his vision was impacted and his cognition was suffering. Finally he could no longer drive or take care of himself. Sensing his mind slipping away, he began writing things down. Every thing. We still have his notes. He developed meticulous routines and habits, clearly an attempt to control his confusion and memory loss.
Once he was diagnosed, of course, the early signs made sense.
It starts off slow.
Then it follows a relentless path of destruction.  

It feels a little dumb to try to explain an abstract piece of art in terms of elements and representations and meanings. What I'd mostly like to say is that while I was journeying through this piece, this is what I was thinking about. It feels a little too convenient to start assigning meaning to the parts after the fact but I also think that titles and descriptions help with giving direction and purpose to a piece.

 In "Erase" there are 3 elements braided together: The physical/pathological, the emotional, and the psychological elements of how Alzheimer's effects it's victim as well as the loved ones of the victim during the early to mid stages of the disease as it slowly begins to erase parts of the brain. 
It represents the turbulent inner battle between maintaining order and battling chaos.











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