Please describe Take Me To Your Moon: Journeys Into The World of Dementia, how it came to be.
Take Me To Your Moon: Journeys Into the World of Dementia is a body of work encompassing ceramic sculptures with accompanying text, which are inspired by my interactions with dementia patients and their families and friends. Through my art, I want to cultivate caring support, empathy, and patience. These are, I believe, the keys for easing humiliation, isolation, frustration, and fear that may accompany dementia.
The original incarnation of this work was shown in a joint exhibit in Nebraska in 2022. It included 15 pieces from my former art teacher, Kit Watson (a dementia sufferer) and I. You can read about it here. The next exhibit, a solo, is scheduled in South Dakota in 2024.
Who initially inspired you to grapple with dementia? What process did you take to produce Take Me To Your Moon: Journeys Into The World of Dementia?
When I approached Kit Watson with a joint exhibit proposal, she was initially hesitant because of her worsening forgetfulness. At the end of my visit, however, she said to me, “I want to do it. It’ll be good for me.” That was how the project began. The show theme naturally fell on the condition Kit had been dealing with—dementia. While collaborating toward the goal, we thought about what techniques and media would bring out the best of her remaining skills. Observing how she and her family coped with her cognitive decline, I reflected on humanity. It made me want to express human reactions to the disease in my sculptures.
How has working on dementia-related art changed you?
The importance of patience and human connection stands out of all the lessons I have learned from my interactions with dementia patients. They have been affecting my day-to-day choices. For example, I am more patient with my 87-year-old mother, who repeats the same things again and again. I also call her more often now.
The subject matter is right in my arena, as my art deals with universal conditions.
How has Take Me To Your Moon: Journeys Into The World of Dementia been received?
The joint exhibit provoked many discussions and the sharing of personal experiences, according to the gallery director. One of the stories was from a young woman who came to the show with her grandfather. He was recently diagnosed with dementia, and she was fearful of losing him to the illness. After viewing the exhibit, smiling through tears, she told the director the show had given her the courage to face their future. To demonstrate her appreciation, she bought what she could afford—a joyful figurine of mine. Did she perceive she was not alone in her fears? Did its commonality encourage her? If so, my art served its purpose. Her reaction, in turn, heartened me.
This work is dedicated to: Kit Watson was often portrayed in my work. When she was the inspiration, I asked her to pose for me. She even helped me come up with the right expression.