Friday, June 10, 2011

Bold and Graphic

For the last couple of weeks. I've really been trying to focus-to the exclusion of almost everything else- on the voice inside me that asks me (and not usually politely) to make art. I find that the the more attention I pay to that voice, the less I struggle to interpret what it wants to tell me.

And now, suddenly, bold and retro graphics are flowing out onto my paper and canvases! While I'm baffled by that trend (I've never considered myself a graphic artist), I'm going with it and enjoying watching the show unfold.

As is obvious by now, I don't generally work figuratively. Working figuratively makes me nervous, exposes me and the sorry state of my drawing skills. Somehow, it's always just easier for me to express my emotions and the impulses of my inner creative voice when I can do it in the abstract.

Nevertheless, the piece below is a very deliberate, blunt attempt to express a struggle I see going on in Dad as he reaches back into his past to try and hold onto who he is, today. His constant refrain (and advice) to me is, "Don't get old!" and I find myself nodding in agreement, even as I continue to age a little more every day.

Here, an elderly man reaches out to capture the setting sun as it sinks away from his grasp.

After the painting of sun, sky and gentleman was completed, I masked off the silhouette of the man and wrote a Stacked Journaling letter across him in white paint squeezed directly from the bottle. 

An unexpected result of using Stacked Journaling so often in my work to help me express my frustrations with- and fear of- Alzheimer's, is that I have come to recognize the intimate bond between words and dementia.

For the dementia sufferer, words can eventually stop making sense altogether and the ability to communicate breaks down entirely.  While Dad is thankfully not to that point, it's more obvious all the time that he becomes confused after speaking or listening to only a couple of sentences. Tracking a lively conversation as it moves around a room is impossible for him, so he usually just sits quietly, looking at his lap. The books he's always loved are now most likely just a confusion of words he's unable to navigate in order to enjoy the plot lines, character studies and surprise endings. He hands dog-eared paperbacks off to us, one or two a week, and says he's finished them, but we never ask him anymore what they're about- he simply doesn't know.

I've created a couple of large printing plates that represent to me this confusion of words- letters that head off in every direction, an implication of language that's become too muddied to read, a blizzard of information that can no longer be processed- and have been using them over and over again lately. And again, bold, retro graphics keep emerging.

In the piece below, a confluence of happy accidents: yesterday I asked my dear friend, Lynn Krawczyk, if she thought a handprint would make a good Thermofax screen (she being the Queen and Guru of All Things Thermofax, all hail!) She said she thought it was a great idea, so I took to the studio and created several prints of my left hand using plain white paper and opaque black paint.

The prints that were left over after I'd chosen my favorite one and scanned it for Lynn were too cool to just toss out. In this piece, I masked off the hand with clear contact paper and used my recently-created printing plates to lay text around the hand.

Even though this simple bit of art was created using the emo-laden printing plates, the final product feels bold, young, and empowering to me, as if the hand with its splayed fingers is stopping, by sheer force of will, the flow of confusion. 

Have a great weekend and create boldly,
- Judi


kathy said...

Awww...what a great piece, Judi. I bet there will be more expressions like this.
A few years ago, I saw an exhibit about Altzheimers at the Paduca quilt show....very expressive and poignant.

elle said...

Excellent post, Judi. Life is... I'm actually feeling a bit speechless, myself.

Janet Claffey said...

Thank you for sharing.Thinking of you.

Bev said...

You've begun reaching out to your dad in a way that's as meaningful as any I've ever seen. The true sadness is that he's not able to recognize it for what it is - an attempt to make sene of the relationship that always eluded both of you. I see you becoming his daughter, the stranger who resides deep in your own heart, a person neither of you ever recognized before and who, unfortunately, is seen by only one of you at this stage.

I love you. I feel your grief.


Quilter Beth said...

Your pieces are really powerful, especially to those of us who have had to deal with a loved one with Alzheimer's. My Mom just died a year ago (June 8) and had suffered with Alzheimer's for awhIle. People say, "Oh, she's better off; she wouldn't want to live like that," and my mind knows that. The problem is my heart hasn't caught up with that thinking yet.

Jackie said...

Oh my that is a powerful post... please keep it and I hope it shows again in any place it can.

Marilyn League said...

Your recent post has inspired me to create a mixed media piece that I need to help me visualize the solution to an ongoing problem I have. Thank you!

Kathy said...

It seems we are on a similar journey. It's not an easy road

shawn said...

Neat piece- I can relate to what you said because my dad had alzheimers too. He was an artist and it was really hard to see him lose his talent, his words.. my dad.