Category Archives: alzheimers

THE TRAGIC STORY BEHIND THE SONG “COME DANCING”

I have been asked why I used a woman in the artwork I created inspired by the song “COME DANCING”. Well, there is a reason. 

The seemingly happy catchy song was written by Ray Davies in 1982 and recorded in 1983. His sister’s  visit to  England (she had emigrated to Canada) happened to coincide with Ray Davie’s 13 birthday. He had begged his parents for a Spanish guitar, to no avail. Rene stepped in and got it for him (his first guitar!). 

Then she did what she always did when she was in town – she called her friends to go dancing that night. So – off she went to the Lyceum ballroom. But, she suffered a fatal heart attack, as a result of a childhood bout of rheumatic fever.

“Rene had died dancing in a ballroom in London in the arms of a stranger….Coming back from Canada, where she’d emigrated, to die.   Really, and again, being a source of inspiration…She gave me my first guitar, which was quite a great parting gift.” Ray Davies

Finding stories like this are one of the reasons I love working on this series “CAN YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR?”. I also learn to play each song on the piano.

COME DANCING ©2022 Vickie Martin, 8×10 collage on paper

I usually do a collage using research materials I collected for the painting. Look closely at this collage. You can see where I hand wrote the beats for the tricky timing in the opening!

You can read more about the series and my quest for the series “CAN YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR?” series HERE. Each piece I create is inspired by a song that I also learn to play. Why? to bring awareness to dementia, because music is the last memory, the one thing you will keep.

They put a parking lot on a piece of land
When the supermarket used to stand.
Before that they put up a bowling alley
On the site that used to be the local palais.
That’s where the big bands used to come and play.
My sister went there on a Saturday.Come dancing,
All her boyfriends used to come and call.
Why not come dancing, it’s only natural?

Another Saturday, another date.
She would be ready but she’s always make him wait.
In the hallway, in anticipation,
He didn’t know the night would end up in frustration.
He’d end up blowing all his wages for the week
All for a cuddle and a peck on the cheek.

Come dancing,
That’s how they did it when I was just a kid,
And when they said come dancing,
My sister always did.

My sister should have come in at midnight,
And my mum would always sit up and wait.
It always ended up in a big row
When my sister used to get home late.

Out of my window I can see them in the moonlight,
Two silhouettes saying goodnight by the garden gate.

The day they knocked down the palais
My sister stood and cried.
The day they knocked down the palais
Part of my childhood died, just died.

Now I’m grown up and playing in a band,
And there’s a car park where the palais used to stand.
My sister’s married and she lives on an estate.
Her daughters go out, now it’s her turn to wait.
She knows they get away with things she never could,
But if I asked her I wonder if she would,

Come dancing,
Come on sister, have yourself a ball.
Don’t be afraid to come dancing,
It’s only natural.

Come dancing,
Just like the palais on a Saturday.
And all her friends will come dancing
Where the big bands used to play.

If you have a favorite song you’d like to see represented, I’d love to know.

B IS FOR BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER

This is a continuation of my quest to create a piece of art inspired by a song beginning with every letter of the alphabet. You can read about it HERE.

I always do a “deep dive” into the song, learning as much as I can about the story behind it, even learning to play it on the piano – and this is a great song to play because it is written in the gospel tradition.

Written in 1970 by Paul Simon and it is one of the Simon and Garfunkel’s biggest hits, even becoming their signature song. It won five Grammy’s in 1971, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year. Simon insisted Garfunkel sing this song (a decision he later came to regret).

 

BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER, 20×20 Mixed media ©2020VickieMartin

What was the inspiration for the song? When Simon heard the southern gospel group Swan Silvertones 1959 song “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep”.  The line “I’ll be your bridge over deep water / if you trust in My name”  jumped out at him. In a rare interview with Dick Cavet in 1970, he said “I think that must have subconsciously influenced me, and I started to go to gospel (chord) changes”

The line “like a bridge over troubled water” is a metaphor for someone living through a tough time, and “I will lay me down” refers to the sacrifices made to find a way through them.

Bridge Over Troubled Water, ©2008 ink, charcoal, crayon on paper, 15×18

In the third verse, the line “Sail on silver girl / Sail on by / Your time has come to shine” shifts the rhythm and the mood changes. Simon later revealed it was a reference to his then-wife. But many interpret it being focused on someone who needs help during a difficult time.

It is important to remember the times in which it was written. In 1969 America was in turmoil. Viet Nam, Nixon, and the country was still dealing with the loss of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. This was a song that was needed for the times. In fact, It continued to be an uplifting anthem in bad times. In 2005, Simon and Garfunkel reunited to sing it to help raise money for those affected by Katrina.

In the past 50+ years, everyone from Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, The Jackson Five, Peggy Lee, Johnny Cash and more, with Aretha Franklin winning a Grammy for her cover in 1972.

 

Bridge Over Troubled Water, 6×6 collage on 10×10 board @2020 Vickie Martin
     
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-XCmb6t6Zw

When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I’m on your side
Oh when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
Oh when darkness comes
And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on, silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

Check out the story behind AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH here.

WHEN BEETHOVEN SHOWED UP IN MY ART

If I were going to a deserted island, I would definitely take Beethoven with me. (You can read my blog HOW A WALK AND A PODCAST MADE ME GET SERIOUS ABOUT MY ART here.) During the past year I spent time learning to play both Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata, so it makes sense these pieces would find their way into my artwork!

Moonlight Sonata, ©vickiemartin2020, mixed media on canvas 30×30

The inspiration for MOONLIGHT FOR ELISE is from both The Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elise. While Fur Elise is not the hardest piece of music piece of music to play, it is hard to play it well. I listened to the pianist Lang-Lang discuss Fur Elise and simply said it should be played “as light as a feather”, a statement that I think of every time I sit down to play it.

Interesting, Fur Elise was not published until 1867, forty years after Beethoven’s death in 1827!! It was written in 1810 and apparently shoved into a drawer (without the nickname Fur Elise on it!). He revised it in 1827 and put it back in the drawer where it stayed until 1867, discovered by a musicologist. No one knows who is was written for, Beethoven was NOT lucky in love! There have been so many variations of this piece of music, if you look on YOUTUBE, you can find a blues version, a ragtime version and a classical guitar version. It has been referred as a “little trifle” that became a classic.

The top painting was inspired by The Moonlight Sonata. Beethoven once complained to fellow pianist Czerny (and student) “Everybody is always talking about the C-sharp minor Sonata! (Moonlight Sonata) Surely I have written better things. There is the Sonata in F-sharp major—that is something very different.”

It is interesting to note Beethoven was already loosing his hearing when he wrote The Moonlight Sonata. The name was not given to the piece by Beethoven, but rather the1830s German music critic and romantic poet named Ludwig Reilstab was the first to describe the piece as relating to moonlight. He referred to the sonata as “a boat visiting, by moonlight, the primitive landscapes … in Switzerland”.

Below are two collages based on the songs. Note the feathers in the ones inspired by Fur Elise (inspired by Lang-Lang’s description).

Fur Elise, ©vickiemartin2021, 6×6 collage on a 10×10 board

Moonlight Sonata, ©vickiemartin2021, 6×6 collage on 10×10 board.

The above piece integrates my own music into the collage. The vertical pieces are inspired by – from left to right, the octave in the bass, then moving to the right, there are two sets of three vertical pieces that symbolize the broken chords that make up the theme of Moonlight Sonata.

One last interesting fact about Beethoven is there is no proof that he ever met Mozart. But, both Beethoven and Mozart studied under Haydn.

Also, Beethoven played with so much passion and was so intense, he often broke the strings of the pianos in performances. Pianos back then were no where near as resilient as they are today, the cast iron frame commonly used in pianos wasn’t developed until after Beethoven’s death.

Do you have a favorite piece of music you couldn’t live without?

HOW A WALK AND A PODCAST MOVED ME TO GET PERSONAL WITH MY ART

I have been exploring music and memory with my art for a couple of years with a series titled “CAN YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR?”.  This was initially inspired by my mother’s dementia, but the fact I come from a musical family had a part in this decision.  I know, you hear “my family is musical” a lot. But in my case, it is true. My grandfather was a piano tuner and had a music store. My father rebuilt pianos and my aunt taught piano for over 70 years (she probably taught half of North Georgia how to play the piano!). In fact, I began learning at age five.

Every piece I create is inspired by a specific song and I begin with writing the lyrics of the song on the first layer. I not only study the lyrics but I meditate on them, searching for visual cues within the lyrics.  I also learn to play each song on the piano and really study the structure of the music. But the choice of the songs was a little random. Yes, I took requests. Some songs were chosen simply because I already knew how to play it on the piano. Below you can see some of the songs chosen and the art it inspired – with a line given for why the song was chosen.

 

Inspired by the song Bridge Over Troubled Water

Inspired by the song Bridge Over Troubled Water, which should be the theme song for all caregivers out there.

Moon River

Inspired by Moon River, “this is my favorite song in the world” I was told. Plus – it is a fun song to play.

Inspired by Up UP and Aware

Inspired by Up Up and Away “It is such a positive song!”

While I enjoyed creating these pieces, there was something missing – ME!

When I say I started walking, I mean I started WALKING! Since March 29th, I have walked every day but one (migraine headache). Since the beginning of April, I have achieved my daily goal of 11,000 steps every day but two (again the migraine, and the first day after the time change – I miscalculated nightfall!). If I had walked a straight line going west from Atlanta, I would be looking Denver in my rear-view mirror.

The podcast that fueled these walks is DESERT ISLAND DISCS adapted from a radio show that has aired on the BBC since 1942. Each guest is seemingly whisked to a desert island taking only eight songs, one book (they are given the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare), and one luxury item. The people interviewed range from Margaret Thatcher to Keith Richards to Tom Hanks to public servants in England. The reasons the songs are chosen are very thought provoking and often revealing.   Usually it is not because of they are their favorite songs, but because of a memory associated with the song. For instance, Keith Richards picked  Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Why? He said Vivaldi was the only composer Mozart respected (who I believe he referred to as the North Star), and if he was going to a desert island, he wanted four seasons. Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono picked the same John Lennon song (Beautiful Boy). What is the most requested song? Beethoven’s Ninth – Ode to Joy. What is the most popular song by The Beatles? Something. 

So, it got me to thinking, what songs would I take? This was not an easy decision. In fact, I  have thought about this for months. So I finally sat down and made a list and I am ready to commit to my eight songs. So, for the next 8 weeks I will share one of my “picks” with you, with the history and background of the song, and the process used in creating the art the song inspired. And I am going to “gulp” start recording my version of the songs on the piano.

As for the other choices, my luxury item would be a piano, with a bench filled with music. Actually, the piano is a very popular choice, but so is a machete (you have to build shelter), and an unlimited supply of wine. In fact, one person chose a bathtub with three faucets, one for cold water, one for hot, and one for wine.  The book I would choose? I think I would pick the largest art history book I could find!

A quick note in closing. It has been scientifically proven one NEVER loses their music memory. I have seen people in adult day care that are totally incommunicable sit up straight and belt out all the words of a song they recognize.

What songs would you choose?  and why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A CRAFT PROJECT TO CELEBRATE THE MONTH OF MARCH

I have found by working with people in adult day care, there are two rules that remain constant. The first is not to give them too many choices. The second rule is to make them part of the process, they love to learn new things.

“March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” ―English Proverb

I have included a few guidelines for putting together a monthly calendar that is both fun and educational.  

monthly craft of a calendar for adult day care.

March 2020 calendar example for adult day care

There is more to March than St. Patricks Day.  

SUPPLIES:

Supplies needed for the monthly calendar

You will need: 

tape
scissors
glue (stick glue works best)
assorted decorative tapes
assorted designs punched out of construction paper
pens to color

The particular coloring design I used can be found at THIS link.  The calendar is found HERE.   But, feel free to look around and see if there is something you find that is better suited for your purposes.  Make the copies on Cardstock.

It is easy to find thumbnail images that pertain to the important dates and birthday. I put these on one page and give them copies of it. (I am unable to show an example, but you can use regular copy paper for this).

IMPORTANT DATES FOR MARCH

St. Patricks Day – 3/17
Daylight Saving Time – 3/8
World Prayer Day – 3/6
National Plant a Flower Day – 3/21
Full Moon – 3/9
First Day of Spring – 3/19

SOME BIRTHDAYS TO CONSIDER

Garnett Morgan – born 3/4 (the inventor of the traffic light)
Pearl Bailey – born 3/29
Aretha – born 3/25

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT MARCH

March was the first month of the year in the Roman calendar.

March is named for Martius, the Roman God of War. Because battles were not fought during the winter, they began again in March.

The birthstone is an aquamarine.
The flower is the daffodil.
March and June always end the month on the same day of the year.
March is considered the most unproductive month of the year in the United States. The reason? March Madness.

Again, this is just an example to get you started!!!!   This gives them consistency and also something to look forward to!! They have started asking when we are going to make a calendar for the next month.

I would love to see other examples of consistent crafts that others have used!

 

 

 

THE STORY BEHIND THE PAINTING I’LL FLY AWAY

The song I’ll Fly Away is featured in this blog as part of my series MUSIC STILL REMAINS, which is an exploration of music and memory inspired by dementia – and you can read more about the series in this blog.

I begin each painting by applying texture, which is symbolic of the plaques and tangles found in the brain of those with dementia. I then handwrite the entire lyrics on the canvas. The song was suggested to me by my piano teacher. Oh, I forgot to mention, learning to play each song on the piano is part of the process of every painting.

 Many people believe this is the most recorded of all gospel songs (hard to believe, but the songs you are thinking about being more recorded are actually considered “hymns”).  In fact, this song recently made an appearance in the movie O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? – check out the video here.  It’s been recorded by a wide array of artists – from Johnny Cash to Kanye West!

I’ll Fly Away, early layers

As you can see from the above picture, the first several layers look very different from the finished painting.  I started using birds – but changed it to butterflies.  The birdcage was ultimately scaled down.  So, when it was all over and done – I took all my little supplies and made the collage below.

I’ll Fly Away, Collage on Paper 8×10 ©vickiemartin2019

 I’ll Fly Away was written in 1929, and is considered “theological escapism” – escaping earth for the joys of heaven.  Using birds and angels in the lyrics symbolizes the freedom from pain and toil.  Below are a few of the verses of the song.

Is there a song that always brings up a memory for you? I’d love to know the song and what the memory is!

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away, oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die, Hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

When the shadows of this life have gone
I’ll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly
I’ll fly away

 

 

 

 

 

Open Studio postcard

SAVE THE DATE

JUNE 22, 2019 from 2-6pm

I’m so excited! I am having my first ever OPEN STUDIO – so put down the date!

Not only am I going to make all of my work available, but 20% of all sales will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association/Georgia Chapter. Below is a small sampling of some of the work that will be available. There should be something for everyone, with prices from $15 to $1500! In the next week – I will add a page to my website and post images of some of what will be available.

I am planning several things to make the afternoon FUN! Not only will there be light refreshments, but I am planning activities. I have a very nice patio area outside my studio (see photos below) and will set up a couple of tables so you can do a collage, paint a rock, or who knows what else I’ll come up with! If you have any ideas – let me know!

A work in progress, my walkway leading to my studio!
The entrance to my studio!

So – save the date!!!!! AND – if you want to receive an invitation in the mail, respond to this email with your address!

Hope to see you!!!!

(more…)

DEMENTIA STATISTICS

Thank you for stopping by. If you watched my video introducing my new series MUSIC STILL REMAINS, here are more statistics on Alzheimers in the United States. As an added bonus, I have include a few things NEVER to say to someone with any kind of dementia.

Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States

Alzheimer’s is the only disease in the 10 leading causes of deaths in the United States that cannot be cured, prevent or slowed.

1 in 10 Americans over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s.

Between 2017 and 2025 every state is expected to see at least a 1% rise in Alzheimer’s.

By 2050, it is estimated there will be as many as 16 million American’s living with Alzheimer’s.

By 2050, there could be as many as 7 million people age 85 and older with Alzheimer’s, accounting for half of all people 65 and older with Alzheimer’s.

It is estimated by 2020, there will be 5.8 million with Alzheimers, by 2050, there will be 13.8 million. This is in people 65+.

Two thirds people with Alzheimer’s are women.

African American’s are 50% more like to have Alzheimer’s than Caucasian Americans. Hispanic Americans are 100% more like to develop it!

Here are some things never to say to a person with Alzheimer’s:

  • Don’t tell them they are wrong about something.
  • Don’t ask if they remember something.
  • Don’t remind them a love one is dead.

Learning “creative lying” helped me. My mother frequently told me she had told to her father and he was coming to get her. I would respond and tell her I had talked to him too. He told me to tell her he couldn’t come today because he had some crops he had to harvest (he was a farmer), it worked every single time.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – if you have never had someone close to you with dementia, you are lucky, FOR NOW! You have a better chance of winning the lottery unless there is a cure found in our lifetime!

Thank you for stopping by, I hope you will follow me on my journey with my MUSIC STILL REMAINS series!

THE STORY BEHIND THE PAINTING

The Clock Ticks, ©vickiemartin2018,
20×24 Mixed Media

My new series “The Rhythms of Memory” is inspired by my journey with my mother as she struggled with dementia – arguably the most feared disease that happens to be incurable. This is the story behind the painting you see above.

I began the painting with multiple layers, adding texture as I went along, representing the abundance of plaques and tangles found in the brain of dementia patients.

One question I constantly hear from those with dementia is “What time is it?” In fact, losing track of time is an early symtom of dementia, they often loose track of dates and even the seasons of the year. As the dementia progresses, routine and structure become more important to them, it helps ease their anxiety and confusion. Knowing all of this, I placed a clock face into the painting.

I also painted a hill with the steps, illustrating the daily struggles they face. The steps have a rhythm that mimics the notes on a piano keyboard – this was intentional. Music has been proven to improve memory. Watch the short video I posted below of Henry’s transformation after hearing one of his favorite musicians, Cab Calloway.


“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.” Plato

This is something we have known for a very long time. After all, Plato lived from 427-347 BC!

Do particular songs evoke certain memories? Have you ever reacted to music the way Henry does in the above video? I’d love to know about it!

I used the term “dementia”. Alzheimers accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases (depending which study is referenced). Click here if you want to read the !0 Early Signs of Alzheimers.

MY FAVORITE THINGS

I am leading a weekly art project with memory impaired women. Because each project  teaches me what works and doesn’t work, I decided to document these projects.

The first project was creating a “MY FAVORITE THINGS” board, which was based on the Vision Board concept. They had great fun going through magazines and pulling out images of their favorite things.

Miss Lilliette with her “Favorite Things” board. Notice the musical notes – she played the piano at church most of her life!

This was a great way to get to know them! I learned what their favorite colors were, I learned which ones played the piano and which ones sang.

Miss Dorothy (pictured above) couldn’t wait to get her board home to have it framed! I learned she had been a professional singer in Los Angeles and held singing and acting workshops for aspiring actors! (working with Bob Barker no less!)

Miss Willa with her favorite things.

Miss Willa great up on a farm in Alabama. She told the best day of her life was the day her father told her he was tired of farming and they were all moving to Atlanta!

What did I learn?

First of all, I teach vision board workshops – and as a result I have a HUGE stash of magazines. I learned that two to three magazines PER PERSON to choose from would have been worked. Too many choices makes it difficult for them to make any choices.

I purchased poster boards from The Dollar Store (2 for $1.00). Cutting these in half was enough room for them to work with.

Also, stick glue works better, especially the kind that goes on purple and dries clear. They can see they are using the glue. Liquid glue was just too messy for many of them.

I learned they want BLING! Sequins or anything shiny is a must.

When I told them we would do a collage the next week, I was met with blank stares – they didn’t know what a collage was! So – next week I will give them a lesson on collage, and show them the work of Romare Bearden! Giving them a weekly art lesson is going to be fun, I will learn more about African American artists and share it with them.

If you have any lessons you have learned, I’d love to hear about it!