“Sometimes he will just come up to my mother and do his best to hold her and he will say thank you or I love you. Then he will go back to knocking his fists against the door’s glass.”
—“I Asked My Dad, Who Has Dementia, to Annotate Jonathan Franzen’s How to Be Alone” by Blake Butler is a thing you should read right now.
To reflect the ongoing structural changes in the adolescent and twenty-something brain, many journalists and scientists use words and phrases like “unfinished,” “work in progress,” “under construction” and “half-baked.” Such language implies that the brain eventually reaches a kind of ideal state when it is “done.” But there is no final, optimal state. The human brain is not a soufflé that gradually expands over time and finally finishes baking at age 30. Yes, we can identify and label periods of dramatic development—or windows of heightened plasticity—but that should not eclipse the fact that brain changes throughout life.
Whether we can, at this moment in time, meaningfully link this life stage to neuroscience seems a tenuous proposition at best. By itself, brain biology does not dictate who we are. The members of any one age group are not reducible to a few distinguishing structural changes in the brain. Ultimately, the fact that a twenty-something has weaker bridges between various brain regions than someone in their thirties is not hugely important—it’s just one aspect of a far more complex identity.
Tell me whats on your computer’s mind
Rowan Tedge, Ink and watercolour on Arches Watercolour smooth 300GSM paper., A5 148x210mm, 2012
From The Community U.N.
William Utermohlen is latest artist to be honored at the GV Art Gallery in London, with an event that has an emotional purpose that is near and dear to the hearts of many. Utermohlen spent the last twelve years of his life battling Alzheimer’s, a degenerative neurological disease that slowly took away his ability to do what he was most passionate about: his art.
At the event, his widow spoke to the many supporters, saying “He died in 2007, but really he was dead long before that. Bill died in 2000, when the disease meant he was no longer able to draw.”
This exhibit is known as William Utermohlen: Artistic decline through Alzheimer’s, as it explores the relationship between Utermohlen’s artwork and the progression and struggle with the disease.
Looking at his pieces as his disease progressed, a clear change is visible. As he slowly lost control over his movements, his composition and techniques changed as he was forced to abandon oils for easier-to-use watercolours and pencils. One thing that did not change throughout time, however, was the sheer mastery and vision displayed by has passion for the content of his pieces.
His paintings display a rarely seen insight into a mind effected by Alzheimer’s, as his struggle and frustration are imminent. Also changed by the progression of time and the disease were his subjects. He began to focus on self portraits and looming dark doorways in the backgrounds
His widow commented that, “it was as if he knew he was going to a very dark place and he knew he couldn’t do anything about it. By the end he couldn’t even recognise his own paintings… that was the saddest thing”.
Rarely does one get the opportunity to chronicle their own experience with mental decline. Even more rarely do we get to share and observe that troubled journey.
This art is that tale.
|—||The intro to Aaron Lake Smith’s excellent essay on what we all lose by giving ourselves to the digital world. Granted, this is not a new topic, but written with flare and honesty. Keep reading … (via utnereader)|