Portraits of an Alzheimer’s journey by Mary Lou Grace Robison, visual artist

Grace Robison was a teenager when her grandmother Mary Lou started showing signs of dementia. Mary Lou had trouble remembering Grace, and Grace saw Mary Lou becoming someone new, mentally and physically.

‘It was like we were forgetting each other,’ Robison says. ‘Everything was becoming blurry.’

Blurriness is a recurring theme in the 12 mixed-media portraits Robison created in her collection Lou.  Completed over several years and awarded/honored with a gold medal in the 2019 National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.  Robison’s images are both tender and haunting.  Working in a hyper-realistic style, she emphasizes the details of her grandmother’s hands, feet, face, skin, wrinkles and even blemishes, but almost always set against a blurry background, representing the confusion she saw her grandmother experiencing.  In images like Blue Skies she is youthful and cheerful, but in others like Foggy and Hard to Smile she is clearly frustrated and lost, reflecting the oscillation between those two extremes that people with Alzheimer’s often endure every day.

Robison’s mother was a full-time caregiver for Mary Lou, and she wanted to honor her mother as well.

“I wanted to zoom in,’ Robison says. ‘Show her daily life, showering, wounds, the toilet.  All the work my Mom was doing.”

Her mother was deeply affected by her work, she says.  “Family was my main audience.”

What started as a high-school senior art AP project quickly garnered attention when she entered one of the pieces in a national art competition and was flown to Carnegie Hall in New York for the judging.

Now studying art at the University of San Francisco, Robison has taken her grandmother’s first name to honor her memory, and she continues to raise awareness about dementia and Alzhiemer’s disease.

For more information about Robison’s work visits her website HERE.

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