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The Light and the Dark

August 16, 2017

What is it about art that speaks to us so deeply? How does it tap into our soul and speak so loudly to us, sometimes even uncomfortably shouting our truths to other people? We spend all of our time hiding the deepest parts of our souls from others around us, sometimes even from the people closest in our lives. But art, this amazing living and breathing thing, shouts our truths back at us and makes us feel emotions that we were positive we had locked away deep in our hearts where they could not escape. Suddenly, there it is. That work of art that is so profound, so fierce, that it stops us in our tracks and we are taken aback. This seemingly unassuming piece vividly screaming out to us and all surrounding us.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Here I was, a four decade veteran of the mind as a psychotherapist, and my mind was the very thing being attacked. I realized something was wrong when I could not get my thoughts straight enough to form words. I could, and can, still speak but there is nothing more frustrating than consistently not being able to think of a word and speak it. My mind has become a tangled web where things often do not make sense and I have to stop and really think about what I want to convey to other people. As parts of my mind grow darker, the more creative and patient I must become–and this is where art has changed my life.

Recently I was able to come to the Museum and spend some time in the quiet stillness of the galleries before it was open to the public during the Meaningful Moments program. As I observed the beauty of this majestic place and wandered the meandering galleries, I took in the colors and the mediums, the brush strokes and the carvings; able to breathe deeply and take in the magnificence of where I was. As I turned the corner of a hallway towards the end of my time at the Museum, I saw a piece that stopped me in my tracks and pulled at my heartstrings.

Jackson Pollock, Cathedral, 1947, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard J. Reis © Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Cathedral is a piece of contemporary art created by the famed Jackson Pollock in 1947. I had never taken stock in contemporary art, really. But this piece stole my heart and was screaming my truth in a way that I didn’t think was actually possible. In this, I see my mind—this mess of black and grey and white. What is the brain if not a mass of neurons, an incredible weaving of all of your thoughts and feelings, experiences and memories; together it creates this masterpiece that we call the brain. Cathedral puts onto canvas what the brain is and more specifically, those who have Alzheimer’s. The beautiful brightness is the living and breathing part of me that is alive, capable of everything. In contrast the inky black is what the Alzheimer’s has taken from me: the plaques, tangles and weaves that steal my mind.

As I sat looking at this enigmatic piece of art, I thought about my experiences over the last two years. I see the parts of me that I had to let go of: my practice, driving, paying the bills. The death of those things is so eloquently represented with the sharp jagged edges of black here. In contrast, I think of all of the things I still have: helping others as much as possible, holding a conversation with my friends, the love of my husband and family. While my brain has betrayed me in ways I cannot express to those who do not suffer from this disease, it has not taken the essence of who I am.

I sit and stare at Cathedral and in it I see who I am: I see that there is a complexity and a depth; there is pain and there is joy, truly a mix of the light and the dark. So often we do not understand that even in illness we are part of a bigger picture; to not let the dark define who we are is what is important. To embrace who and what we are and celebrate ourselves as part of a larger medium of art is the definition of life–for without the dark there would be no light.

Jane McManus
Participant, Meaningful Moments program

Allison Espinosa
Care Advisor, Honor Health Care

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan bondy permalink
    August 16, 2017 10:16 am

    Ms. McManus has so eloquently expressed her feelings and has provided another perspective of looking at art. Thank you!

  2. Sergio Della pietra permalink
    August 16, 2017 2:47 pm

    A very inspiring article. When this happens to me, I pray for a care giver as insightful as Ms.Espinoza.

  3. kimberdma permalink*
    September 21, 2017 10:06 am

    Reblogged this on Dallas Museum of Art Uncrated and commented:

    Today is World Alzheimer’s Day and in recognition of this day which brings awareness to this disease, we are sharing a post by one of our DMA Meaningful Moments participants.

  4. George Miller permalink
    September 21, 2017 10:25 am

    Beautifully stated. G. Miller

Trackbacks

  1. Come enjoy our guest entry on the Dallas Museum of Art’s Blog – As the Memory Faded

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