I recently spent a week beginning the disposition of the belongings of my late parents. It is an odd project to dispose of a lifetime of things, things that conjure the two people who were central figures in my world for much of my life. What to discard, what to keep? One thing I don't plan to discard is my mother's creative work.
I've written of my mother's collaging, or as that former first grade teacher termed it, "cutting and pasting". She began this activity in the fall of 2013 and concluded it a few weeks before her death in 2015. With roughly one a month she left 20 albums, a "legacy" she termed it. She began this project when Alzheimers robbed her of the ability to pursue her favorite activity of reading. Each morning she eagerly awaited her newspaper so she could begin to cut it up and paste it in her notebook. At the time we were just glad she had found something that seemed to engage her, but as I carefully perused her albums I was struck by how her style evolved. I could see her mind working and felt her presence surround me.
I was touched and intrigued and thought I'd share some of her efforts with you.
Soon that morphed into a more overlapping style and this is where I began to notice some interesting things. She clearly had a fascination for faces and repetition of forms. Notice the upside down burger mimicking the pumpkin face (2) ? You can see how she was using grapes to create a sense of flow in the image, drawing your eye along with it. Now her work was beginning to overlap creating a denser image.
At the end of that first book was a note that she had sung Happy Birthday to my sister and my sister told her that it made her day. I felt a surge of satisfaction. I talked to my mother each morning and my sister spoke to her in the evening. She was no longer able to remember birthdays, but I had reminded her of my sister's birthday. She had said, "But I don't have anything for her!" I had suggested she sing to my sister and the suggestion had stayed with her all day, a long time in Alzheimer time.
Mom was drawn to images of families and it appears that she had a fondness for William and Kate. Here they are adorned with a gingerbread house and Tinkerbell, filling out their world with sweetness (4).
While she had begun to overlap images, she hadn't firmly shifted from individual images yet. She was often conscious of the relationship between opposing pages and might divide images to get some repetition (5). She often used her pages as a notebook, noting important things like her breakfast or the fact that her paper hadn't come yet. This was the high point of her day and if it hadn't arrived by our morning phone call, I immediately called the paper to urge them onward.
About six months into this activity she began to overlap imagery in earnest and make use of full page spreads (7, 8).