Tag Archives: Alzheimers

INTRODUCING MY NEW SERIES: MUSIC AND MEMORY

Music and memory go together like a horse and carriage,  love and marriage, or my mom and dad.

“Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory”.  Oscar Wilde

I’ve always been vaguely aware of the power of music and how it can bring back memories at a moment’s notice. But, until I became my mother’s caregiver as she struggled with dementia, I’d never really paid attention to it. I guess there are things that are so much a part of your life, you don’t see what is right in front of your eyes.

Probably my first piano at age two.

To say I came from a musical family is an understatement. My grandfather taught singing around North Georgia and tuned pianos at concert halls in Atlanta and also at various universities and colleges, eventually opening a music store. My father followed in his footsteps, preferring to rebuild pianos instead of tuning them. I started banging a piano as soon as I was able, pointing out to my grandfather that “Middle C” was NOT in the middle of the keyboard.

My father’s sisters appeared on a local radio station and recorded gospel music.

Alas, I began to ignore my calling to create music, it took too much time, too much practice, too much everything. That is until my mother slipped into dementia. I returned to the piano so I could communicate with my mother, as well as other dementia patients. I was amazed how alive and engaged they become when hearing songs that previously meant something to them. I saw catatonic patients “wake up” when hearing music. they remember who they are. Doctors have discovered music memory can survive after other memory has disappeared.

“Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more – it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.”  Oliver Sachs

SO, I am making a public statement that I am creating art that holds music and memory at it’s core  – beginning with music that has been known to trigger memories in dementia patients. Some of these songs include “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”, “You Are My Sunshine”. As I create I will share the stories that inspired me.

I don’t know where this will lead, but I’m excited about this journey, and I would love to  have you follow along with me. Simply, scroll up to the top of the post and enter your email in the block on the right hand side of the page. And, I welcome and WANT to hear YOUR stories about the power of music and memory.

To show you how music has influenced my art in the past, here a few older pieces.

One in eight people are diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s (before age 65). Music is proving to be a powerful tool giving moments of clarity

If you are unsure about how powerful music is when it comes to memory, watch this six minute video of Henry reacting to music – get your tissues ready! 


MOM’S MOST REQUESTED DESSERT – ORANGE TAPIOCA SALAD


I am not really a dessert person, but I loved mom’s Orange Tapioca Salad, even though I would classify it as a pudding. Mom made this for every family event – what I considered a staple. But when I decided to use her recipe, I found the ingredients hard to find. In fact, I had to order the tapioca pudding on-line! I will continue the tradition and make it for special events. In fact, I have a solo art show coming up,  and because the show is inspired by and dedicated to my mom, I think I’ll whip up a batch and take it. The show was also inspired by dementia, you can read more about it here.

When I was looking around for the tapioca pudding mix, I realized I have always heard of tapioca, but what is it really? Tapioca is a starch that is extracted from the Cassava root.

 While similar to yucca, the cassava and the yucca are not the same plant.  It is a starchy tuberous root that is native to South America, and is now grown around the world. It is one of the most drought-tolerant in the world.

You can download the recipe here.

 

THE RHYTHMS OF MEMORY – A DAUGHTER’S JOURNEY

 

OPENING RECEPTION APRIL 21, 2018; 5-9p

Art-Haus

332 Ormond St. NE

Atlanta, Ga. 

Dementia and Alzheimers are probably the most feared incurable diseases there are. As the people are living longer and the population is aging, most of us will be affected by some form of dementia. This series is inspired by my mother’s journey into dementia.

I begin each painting with multiple layers achieving a tactile surface. The layers are symbolic of the abundance of plaques and tangles that are found in the brain of Alzheimers/Dementia patients.

Each piece represents a different aspect of what I observed during mom’s struggle.

The first is the isolation and the feeling of invisibility patients frequently experience. A figure is painted on a multi-layered textured background. The entire surface is painted out and with mark making the figures begin to emerge from the background, while still being faint and translucent.

Some paintings illustrate the confusion that comes with this disease.I make seemingly random marks creating chaos. Using pen and ink, the lines and dots are connected bringing order to the composition.

Connect the Dots – 18×24

Let Me Call you Sweetheart, 8×10 collage, framed 11×14

There are also a series of collages illustrating the power of music, which has been proven to be an effective treatment to help patients access their memory. As the grand-daughter of both a piano tuner and music teacher, this is close to my heart. Each collage included is based on a particular song that has been proven to be effective. 

The inspiration for the piece on the right is a powerful story.  A woman had been verbally unresponsive for a year. But, when we heard this song on the piano, she began humming along, ultimately singing the words. They found this was the song used in her wedding.

 

 

The work shows those with dementia can still be present and they still have stories to share.

For the opening on April 21, 2018, two pieces will be auctioned and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the Georgia Alzheimers Association.

These pieces are valued at $600 apiece. 

 

If you have any stories to share, please put them in the comments.