Editor’s Note: As an advocate for the arts, it’s important to me that the power of the arts for healing gets the attention it deserves. I have not seen this documentary (though it is not newly released), but it was recommended to me by a fan of one of my clients. The reviews are so impressive, and the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s is such a concern for so many, that I wanted to share it with you.
I Remember Better When I Paint, narrated by Olivia de Havilland, is the first international documentary about the positive impact of art and other creative therapies on people with Alzheimer’s and how these approaches can change the way we look at the disease. A film by Eric Ellena and Berna Huebner, presented by French Connection Films and the Hilgos Foundation. Among those who are featured are noted doctors and Yasmin Aga Khan, president of Alzheimer’s Disease International and daughter of Rita Hayworth, who had Alzheimer’s.
The Hilgos Foundation’s mission is to support and encourage the ongoing process of artistic creation with people who have memory problems and/or Alzheimer’s and who require assistance in creating art that is meaningful and enriching. The Hilgos Foundation was created in memory of Hilda Gorenstein, an accomplished painter whose career spanned 75 years. She died at age 93 and left behind her the legacy of an inspired artistic life. Choosing to call herself Hilgos, Ms. Gorenstein was known for her beautiful marine paintings, which are now in collections all over the world. She was such a skillful painter of water vessels she was chosen to paint an enormous mural depicting the history of the U.S. Navy for Chicago’s Century of Progress celebration in 1933. She completed hundreds of paintings in the last three years of her life, while she struggled with profound memory loss. The vestiges of her early, masterful renderings of waves, birds, and boats remain, but have been transformed into a new system of spontaneous, personal gestures, bordering on the abstract. The sophisticated color choices and compositions of these late works reveal how sharp her artistic eye remained up until the very end of her life.
The Hilgos Award provides student funding at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to support and encourage the ongoing process of artistic creation. The award was established by family and friends in memory of the artist Hilgos, who studied at the Chicago Art Institute as a young woman, graduated in the 1920s, and became a well respected painter and sculptor, specializing in marine themes. Hilgos painted well into her 90’s. She returned to painting with several Art Institute students even after suffering memory loss, which almost forced her to stop painting. An award has been created in her spirit and memory at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
See a gallery of Hilgos’ watercolors at the Hilgos Foundation website for inspiration and hope for those who struggle with, or who are caring for a loved one who struggles with, Alzheimer’s and/or memory loss.
The website has a link to an article with fascinating insights on the connection between art and a brain failing due to Alzheimer’s, which you can access directly here: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/01/creative-aging-the-emergence-of-artistic-talents/266799/
I Remember Better When I Paint has been released as part of a DVD package which includes the documentary as well as a series of short supplemental films that further highlight special programs and flesh out the how-tos of organizing an outing, a creative workshop or recreating social bonds between people with Alzheimer’s and their families.
To buy a copy of the DVD package: http://www.amazon.com/REMEMBER-BETTER-WHEN-PAINT/dp/B003UN4CIA
Learn more and read reviews and comments on the film’s website: http://irememberbetterwhenipaint.wordpress.com/about/
Be sure to check out the blog – this film is still touring 4 years after its initial release, and most screenings are free!
Over the past year, more and more, I’ve been involuntarily daydreaming as I paint, in a way that reminds me of what Gaston Bachelard talks about in The Poetics of Space. It’s an idiosyncratic book, beautifully evocative and almost impossible to classify, though it’s often considered a work of philosophy because of its approach to something that sounds absurdly limited: what happens psychologically and emotionally when a person encounters certain kinds of space. It explores how people experience rooms, forests, shells, corners, closets, drawers—and how different the shapes and volumes of these spaces evoke entirely different kinds of dreams. For him, various environments relate in specific ways to the human body and the way people actually inhabit or employ different spaces comes to take on multiple meanings. For him, space is essentially a state of mind rather than the staging area for travel and physical measurement. As Bachelard says in his introduction, the phenomenological approach of the book requires the reader to simply pay attention to how the experience of space can enlarge an individual’s receptivity to new imagery. He puts aside any inherited philosophical or psychological theories and simply examines what’s happening, in human terms, by paying attention to this own encounters with space and how it opens up a state of reverie, a daydream. Different shapes and sizes of space unlock different kinds of dreaming, a treasury of moods, feelings, and mental images. I think what he’s actually doing is elucidating how poetry and painting evoke a sense of a world.
As you read the book it inspires the kind of daydreaming he refers to with a particular adjective—oneiric. (It just means dreamlike.) The prose of the book itself draws you into the state Shelley referred to as the gently fading cinder in a fireplace, glowing, simmering but not really lit up with rational consciousness. In considering the different dream states evoked by a three-story house rather than a four-story one, Bachelard says, “Dreams of stairs have often been encountered in psychoanalysis. But since it requires an all-inclusive symbolism to determine its interpretations, psychoanalysis has paid little attention to the complexity of mixed reverie and memory.” Paying attention to this “mix of reverie and memory” is what Bachelard tries to do in his book, without trying to fit her insights into some particular kind of system. “The poetic daydream, which creates symbols, confers upon our intimate moments an activity that is poly-symbolic.” By symbols I think he means fertile images, metaphors or visual forms that offer a kind of “poly-symbolic” language whose exact meaning can’t be pinned down. An image of stairs comes laden with suggestions of multiple different memories and experiences. The power of its “meaning” is that it evokes an emotional and mental state rather than a proposition that can be put to use.
This was the long way to go to double back to a notion that got me started. I wanted to describe how, while I paint now, certain forms I’m depicting remind me of more than the object I’m trying to represent. It’s similar to what Bachelard was trying to get at—how one experience can seem to embody other kinds of experience—and Braque refers to it, in his journals, as “metamorphosis”. I have Braque’s journals somewhere, but can’t lay my hand on the book right now, lost no doubt in a particularly non-oneiric corner of a bookshelf somewhere in my studio. So I’ll quote him via John Richardson’s 1961 essay on Braque:
‘The only valid thing in art is that which cannot he explained,” I once wrote. I still feel this very strongly. To explain away the mystery of a great painting — if such a feat were possible — would do irreparable harm . . . whenever you explain or define something you substitute the explanation or the definition for the real thing. There are certain mysteries, certain secrets in my own work which even I do not understand, nor do I try to do so. Why bother? The more one probes, the more one deepens the mystery; it’s always out of reach. Mysteries have to be respected if they are to retain their power. If there is no mystery then there is no poetry, the quality I value above all else in art. What do I mean by poetry? It is to a painting what life is to man. But don’t ask me to define it; it is something that each artist has to discover for himself through his own intuition. For me it is a matter of harmony, of rapports, of rhythm and — most important for my own work — of ‘metamorphosis’. I will try to explain what I mean by ‘metamorphosis”. For me no object can be tied down to any one sort of reality. A stone may be part of a wall, a piece of sculpture, a lethal weapon, a pebble on a beach or anything else you like, just as this file in my hand can be metamorphosed into a shoe-horn or a spoon, according to the way in which I use it. The first time the importance of this phenomenon struck me was in the trenches during the first World War when my batman turned a bucket into a brazier by poking a few holes in it with his bayonet and filling it with coke. For me this commonplace incident had a poetic significance; I began to see things in a new way.
When you ask me whether a particular form in one of my paintings depicts a woman’s head, a fish, a vase, a bird or all four at once, I cannot give you a categorical answer, for this ‘metamorphic” confusion is fundamental to the poetry. It is all the same to me whether a form represents a different thing to different people or many things at the same time or even nothing at all: it might be no more than an accident or a ‘rhyme” — a pictorial ‘rhyme” by the way, can have all sorts of unexpected consequences, can change the whole meaning of a picture – –
You see, I have made a great discovery: I no longer believe in anything. Objects do not exist for me in so far as a rapport exists between them and between them and myself. In other words, it is not the objects that matter to me but what is in between them; it is this ‘in-between’ that is the real subject of my painting. When one reaches this state of harmony between things and oneself, one reaches . . . what I can only describe as a state of perfect freedom and peace — which makes everything possible and right. Life then becomes a perpetual revelation.
I often think about these comments from Braque about his abstractions. More and more, I see different, non-literal forms in the shapes I paint. As I capture the look of something quite ordinary and commonplace, I often find myself in other places and times. A pair of white begonia blossoms could pass for cloud formations I’ve seen at 20,000 feet in the air. As I paint it, a cow skull feels like an enormous rock formation, eroded by wind, with cracked cavern walls, something it would take a day for a tiny man to scale and explore. The pattern of light reflecting from the surface and inside a jelly bean looks like a peach-colored moonlit night—my light source, reflected from the candy’s curved surface is a tiny moon peering between sheets and billows of apricot-colored mist. Things are what they are, and many other things, all at one.
A three-part show about the human and animal body (heads, arms and legs, and skulls) opened at Manifest–I wrote about it two posts ago–and this remarkable gallery in Cincinnati drew 293 people to the reception. (The email from Manifest to participants was specific about the number, didn’t round it up to “around 300″, which is testimony to the integrity of this gallery and its programs.) Even without the upward rounding, that’s quite a turnout, for any gallery, anywhere. I couldn’t be happier to have a painting in the show, and I have pictures of how it looks (above, for example) thanks to the team at Manifest, who sent shots to all the artists chosen for the shows.
Also, the program’s 4th International Painting Annual has just been published (my work was included in it as well) and will soon be available for purchase here. About the annual, from the Manifest website:
about the INPA 4
For the INPA 4 Manifest received 1560 submissions from 563 artists. The publication will include 125 works by 92 artists. Essays by Philip Gerstein and Laura Grothaus will also be included.
Eleven professional and academic advisors qualified in the fields of art, design, criticism, and art history juried the fourth International Painting Annual. The process of selection was by anonymous blind jury, with each jury member assigning a quality rating for artistic merit to each work submitted. The entries receiving the highest average combined score are included in this publication.
GRANTS PASS — Two new exhibits go on display in October, November, and December at the Rogue Community College Firehouse Gallery and Wiseman Gallery.
“Presence and Past,” an exhibit by Braeden Cox, will be on display October 28 to November 21 at the Firehouse Gallery, located in RCC Historic City Hall at the corner of Fourth and H streets. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
Cox, a Portland artist, presents a series of charcoal and ink drawings that use abstract gestural marks to suggest geological, botanical and structural forms.
Mixed media works by RCC art instructor Pat Enos will also be on display in the Firehouse Gallery Community Exhibits Room.
A First Friday reception is scheduled 5:30to 8:30 p.m. on November 7.
In the Wiseman Gallery, which is located on the RCC Redwood Campus, “The Subject is War” will be on display from November 5 through December 10. This juried exhibit features war-themed work created by over 35 artists from all over the nation.
Located at 3345 Redwood Hwy., the Wiseman Gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.
For more information on either exhibit, call Heather Green at 541-956-7241 or email her at email@example.com.
The filmmakers contacted us yesterday to announce exciting news – “I Remember Better When I Paint” will be airing on Oregon Public Broadcasting TV station on November 19, 2014 at 7 pm. Put it on your calendar so you don’t miss it, particularly if you have a friend or family member with Alzheimer’s! There is hope ~ all is not lost when there is art to step in and help with communication.
Remember Better When I Paint, narrated by Olivia de Havilland, is the first international documentary about the positive impact of art and other creative therapies on people with Alzheimer’s and how these approaches can change the way we look at the disease. Among those who are featured are noted doctors and Yasmin Aga Khan, president of Alzheimer’s Disease International and daughter of Rita Hayworth, who had Alzheimer’s.
The inspiration for the documentary was the painter Hilgos, who grew up in Portland, Oregon. In her later years while struggling with Alzheimer’s, she stated “I remember better when I paint.” With art students facilitating, Hilgos began painting again. Painting allowed Hilgos to maintain, and even regain, some of her core identity, and her extraordinary enthusiasm and energy, while living with profound memory loss.
This film, directed by Eric Ellena and Berna Huebner, is presented by French Connection Films and the Hilgos Foundation. To learn more, visit our previous post, the film’s website, and the Hilgos Foundation Wikipedia page.
Here’s a trailer:
| Copyright © 2014 Art Matters! - All Rights Reserved|
Powered by WordPress & Atahualpa