Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kohler Art Center exhibition- MEMORY

I went back to the mid west this week to visit family and friends.  We usually only go back for a few days and split our time between Milwaukee and Chicago, and never have enough time to visit everyone we want to see.  THIS time, I really wanted to make an effort to see my artist girlfriends, Erica, Rachel and Anne.  We used to share studio space and coffee together.  I hadn't seen them since I left, and having trouble making art these days, I needed some inspiration from these gals, who are struggling to do the same.

Erica works up at the Kohler art museum in Wisconsin.  One morning I had just enough time before I had to catch a train to Chicago to run up there and see her.   I burst into the museum to find her waiting for me, her eyes bluer than I remembered.  The girls played in the amazing ARTery, an interactive art making space for the public, that she runs.  She had a meeting, and encouraged us to check out the exhibit.  Which just so happened to be called "HIDING PLACES: MEMORY IN THE ARTS"
Kohler Art Museum please click here for lot more information on the exhibit and center.

So, we went in...there were four categories... Holding Memory, Forget Memory, Shared Memory,  and From Memory.  We walked right into these hanging tangles of wires, with blinking lights, tiny television slide shows and creepy music.  I said to Sunny, I feel like we are inside Nana's brain...turns out, it was a piece on Alzheimer's.  We were enthralled with the exhibit.  But, for me it was very, very sad, and quite disturbing.  Every piece resonated in my heart about where Peggy is.  How I have to leave her there all alone with her brain.  Sunny was scared and very upset about a particular piece.  It was large rooms, with sand and it was dark, and images flew by on the wall.  There were set like pieces from life, a dresser with pictures, a bed, large dresses hanging from the ceiling and writing on the wall, snippets of life.  The artist' mother had Alzheimer's.  So does ours.  So many pieces dealing with memory, were sad.  There were not many beautiful images, or  I dare I say "fond memories"

I was happy to see Anne Bastings was there, and frequently shows up and talks and does workshops.  If you read this blog, you'll remember the day I found her book "Forget Memory" which helped me change the way I see Peggy.  And David Greenberger,  who puts Alzheimer's "musings" to music.  These guys are all trying to help communicate and love people without focusing on their memory, or loss of it.

There was an interactive piece, and I encourage you to do it now.  Take 10 pieces of paper and write anything that is important to you, or something you like on them.  It could be a person, place or thing... I chose family, daughters, dogs, garden, art, friends, home, husband, coffee, reading.  (not in any particular order)  NOW fold them up so you can't see what they are.
Throw five of them away.......you are in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's
Open them up and see what's left, fold them again and
Throw three of them away.... you are in the middle stages
Open up to see what's left, fold them up and now throw two more away
You have one thing left.....you are in the final stages.
I was left with garden.  Nothing else, no daughters, dogs or husband.  No art.

Erica Jane Huntzinger, at the Kohler Artery
The exhibit was challenging, moving, creative and thorough.  You could spend a weekend there in lovely Kohler Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan and then make art from all the things you learned, and contemplated, imagined and saw for another week.  I think you'd come out a more sensitive being.  I only had two hours, and that included another hug from my dear friend, with whom I do have lovely and fond memories and will cherish all of them, whether I remember or not someday.