Tag Archives: dementia

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

 

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCING MY NEW SERIES: MUSIC STILL REMAINS

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.