Mom was a belly dancer. Unfortunately, I do not have any good pictures of her in her costume. She had to be in her late 60’s. She had taken it up prior to my Dad’s death, as exercise or so she claimed. She became such a good dancer that she taught it for a short time. Hmmm, I wonder if she danced to seduce Dad. We’ll never know.
I don’t recall when she gave it up. I like to think if she had continued, her body would have resisted Alzheimer’s and she would have had a better quality of life. In the painting of Mom above, I wanted to capture her in this unlikely pose. She was probably in the fourth state of Alzheimer’s – Confusion. I created an unrealistic floor pattern to mimic that state of confusion. Green was her favorite color most of her life and much later she changed to pink. At this time, she still knew me.
Since Mom lived in Kansas and me in Utah, we didn’t see one another often. Maybe twice a year. When visiting one summer, we had the following conversation:
Mom: “You look like a Hardesty.”
Me: “I am a Hardesty.”
Mom: “Who’s your mother.”
Me: “You are Mom.”
Mom: “Oh, I don’t have a son.”
Sad? Of course, but at the same time I took it with a grain of salt. I had to laugh at the absurdity of the moment, and that’s all it was… a moment.
In 2010 shortly before her death, we visited Mom after she had entered the Alzheimer’s unit of a nursing home. As I entered that facility, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Mom was sitting in a chair, and she was slumping to her left as she was being spoon-fed. Tears filled my eyes. Where was my Mom? I wanted to remember her when she became a belly dancer in her sixties.
I was angry! Alzheimer’s/dementia had stolen the soul of my loving and caring mother. On my return trip to my Utah home, I began to visualize how I could communicate my anger via an abstract canvas. The subsequent painting became “Crescendo to Rage.”
“Crescendo to Rage,” Mixed Media, 36×36
I had not thought much about Alzheimer’s other than it being a horrible disease, and I feared I might inherit the gene (good so far). I began to visualize how I could portray this disease on canvas. My research took me to anatomical images of healthy and diseased brains and brain cells. The “Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s” also grabbed my attention. What would these seven stages look like on seven related panels as one artwork? On paper, I sketched and painted my basic composition, a deconstructed brain. This became the basis for all seven panels which I transferred to 20×10 panels. The series is meant for the viewer to ponder the dreadful nature of this disease, from normal to advanced Alzheimer’s.
“7 Stages of Alzheimer’s,” Acrylic, 20×70
Normal – Forgetfulness – Memory – Confusion – Disorientation – Sundowning – Severe