This past weekend was the second time in as many weeks that I visited my mother and she did not know me. There are many possible reasons for this—medication, the progression of her Lewy Body Dementia, the fact that she is waking from a deep sleep.
It saddens me in many ways, but once I tell her who I am and help her connect, there is still lucid conversation. When I tell her about my four-month-old grandson’s crying and tummy troubles, she remembers my brother who died in August. Then she says: “You were no trouble, always happy.” Of course, this is not what she said while I was growing up or what she would have said a few months ago, but it is lovely to hear. I have to fight the tears because I want us to talk about happy memories, and I want to keep her connected to the present as long as I can.
So how does this relate to art? I think it has to do with the layers that I texture, paint, and collage. I was reminded of this when teaching a workshop this past weekend. My paintings have so many layers, some of which I like and some of which I don’t. I may bring one to the surface and then decide I don’t like it or don’t like part of it. Or I may create a layer that is a combination of what is below and the new elements I add to the top.
Putting something new on the surface doesn’t change that initial layer; it just adds to it, making it richer, more complex. It connects each piece, allowing me to focus on what is most important. Life is like that too.