Disarray (July 2020)
The disease has progressed a lot. That is what has happened and is why I haven’t been writing. This drawing is a visual representation of what it feels like now. I call it Disarray. Everything in the drawing is up in the air, and the connections between things are tenuous. I want people to know that for me Alzheimer’s has nothing to with forgetting who your children are, or the names of your grandchildren. You can be in the later stages and still remember their names. It is forgetting who you’ve been all your life. What makes you “you”. It is rapid aging and disintegration. It is the brain telling you that you are not here anymore. And yet you are here. It is confusion. It is panic when alone and not able to just get up, get dressed and start the day. It is an inability to start, and once I do, not know how to continue and the need to get up and pace around. It is everything as an obstacle – the cacophony of being outside and walking with my husband and not being able to filter sound, walking under the viaduct where a restaurant has set up tables with social distancing for dining outside during Co-vid, and the voices of the people dining, sounding like a din of loud noise that is so mixed and loud it becomes unbearable to hear. It is memories intruding on consciousness. Old memories, fragments. It is incomplete thoughts. A fragmentation of the self.
I’ll try and explain how this drawing is representative of my now. I started it with the images of the bananas. When I was an undergraduate art student, I was known as an excellent printmaker, and an artist and professor, Bruce Parsons, hired me to be the master printer for a series of etchings (intaglio prints) for an idea he had. He had returned from a sabbatical where he traveled to Africa, and learned about a tribe that did not refer to people by gender, but instead thought of people as ripe and raw. The series was called that – Ripe and Raw. The bananas were photographed on a cutting board. In the middle were the yellow ones. The time in life when you’re living your life as an adult. The green banana was placed to left of the yellow ones. It represented the beginning of life. The baby. The time when you’re not ready, when you need to be nurtured to become who you are meant to be. But life is short and before you know it you are old. After you are ripe, you become over ripe. Old age is that black banana. No longer ripe. Dare I say rotten.
The drawing contains a baby bottle with green liquid inside. I made a drawing of a baby bottle sitting on a chair when my son was a baby that I called radioactive baby bottle. In that drawing I placed it inside my bedroom and drew the rest of the room in perspective. Here it’s up in the air, and placed between a self portrait that is in pencil – not colored. The self portrait has lines on my forehead that represent bricks. I am a ghost in this drawing. A phantom presence experiencing the disarray of a luridly colored place where nothing makes sense. There are light bulbs hanging down on cords illuminating this catastrophe. A big head with an eye looks directly into a light bulb. The eye is blood shot but doesn’t really see. It is looking, an eye above a big swollen cheek. There is an anatomical heart, that has a truncated pulmonary artery and an aorta that branches out, weaving through books. Books that are floating in space. Closed books that are silent. Emblems of all the information and stories I no longer can read. There is a cactus, a forbidding plant with spikes. I included a drawing of the blue shoes I wear when I walk outside with my husband. The shoes with laces that I tie, narrating each step as I tie them. “Pull the laces tight, tie, loop the lace around and tie the bow, and double knot”. The shoes that allow me to keep walking, to take the walks with my husband on the route we take.
The couch sits under a light bulb. This is a drawing of the couch I sit in everyday, with a dent because I sit so much. The couch from which I watch television. Episodic series after episodic series, ad nauseum. The couch where I fall asleep with the ear buds still in my ears, waking to see that the television is still on.