Thursday, October 9, 2014

Alzheimer's Art: Pumpkins

This is my favorite time to teach painting. Subject matter is everywhere, rich with color and memory. Last week I hauled pumpkins to all my classes.  Even the most hesitant residents were inspired.

 These first two are from a class in a long-term care facility. Both these paintings took two sessions to complete, and were worked in watercolor.
I love the circles of orange and yellow.
watercolor by Long-Term Care resident

Then I took my pumpkins to the Alzheimer's class. The pace slows down here. Last year we "grew" the pumpkin from the middle section out. This year I had them draw the left then the right outside edges, then we slowly added the curves inside with orange. Then they set to work filling in the segments. While painting, scraps of memory came up: carving pumpkins,  trick-or-treating."My mother never let me go. She said I was not going to go begging from door to door."
Each mark is a struggle, though often a satisfying one. 
 The ability to "fill in" areas becomes harder with Alzheimer's, and eventually disappears.This resident is at the edge of that transition.

 This resident loves hearts and delicate designs.
 But even better than the work was the conversation afterwards. I lined the pieces up and we looked at them together. "Which do you like best?" one asked me. "I like them all together best. The whole is better than the sum of the parts. They make each other stronger."
"That's the right thing to say," another answered. "You want everyone to feel they've done something worthwhile."
Knock-me-over-with-a-feather time again.
A good day.