I'm Still Here
As a child, when I visited my grandparents, I remember walking through their front door and being welcomed by the array of family photographs. They were mementos that spanned decades on display to be admired, eventually leading my eye to the sight of my grandfather sitting in his recliner by the window. He was always observing the world and taking note of everything happening around him, whether it was with his own eyes, by taking photographs, or recording home videos with his VHS camera. At the time, I was too young to understand why he was so focused on documenting life, but I learned later on that he was collecting memories to help him recall later.
As an artist, my work often reflects upon the idea of collecting. I do this through the mediums graphic design and photography, with the intention of visually telling a story. I am interested in exploring personal history, struggles, emotions, and relationships. I strive to develop bodies of work that create a perspective and a voice of their own. In my senior show I’m Still Here, I created a series of five digital collages and three bound books that both aim to express the themes of dementia, memory, and loss. This work is expressing these themes from the perspective of my grandfather and how that has affected not only him but my family as well. My intention is that these works can give the viewer insight on the afflictions of dementia through his voice – like him, my collages show the selflessness he exhibited his entire life by focusing on the service to his country and the raising of his family. Due to this disease, he lost his voice and self-expression, thus re-living these memories through my work is an eye-opener.
I enjoy the process of developing collages, as it is both very complex and satisfying in manipulating imagery to convey a specific message. My grandfather was a carpenter for over fifty years, so I constructed each collage by using wood grain textures as a base. I began taking found imagery like photographs, postcards, and medical illustrations and assembled them in a way that evoked how our cells make up the basic structure in our brain. I digitally altered the images with pixilation, blur, and abstract brushstrokes to emulate the loss of memory. I overlaid handwritten quotes to reveal relationships my grandfather established with each of his children; these quotes invite viewers to witness how this disease impacts families. Through my bound books, I invite the viewers to briefly learn more about dementia and my own family’s story that goes along with the diagnosis of dementia.
There needs to be a better understanding of this disease. Individuals suffering from dementia should not be ignored. I created this series to celebrate my grandfather’s life, but also provide a coping mechanism for my family, myself. And I also hope to raise awareness and to encourage the viewers to cherish their memories and the people they love while they still have the chance.
Digital collage, 20" x 16"
© 2019 Meghan Foley, All Rights Reserved
Alzheimer's, Dementia, Collage, Book