Whose Story Is It

Embrace, 39″ x 34″ x 2.75″, Mixed media on board, ©Patricia Steele Raible 2019

Sometimes I feel that I am not so much the painter as the conduit for a painting. That is the case with many of the pieces in my current series about dementia. “Embrace,” the one you are viewing here, is about my personal journey with my mother, but it is also about other people. First, it is a story created by people who traveled the same path before me, though with less science and perhaps less support. It is also a story about those that traveled with me, those that cared for and about my mother. Finally, it is also about the people who are still on this path.

My Story

To me an embrace is normally a good feeling, a comforting feeling. But the term also describes how the lead and partner function on the dance floor as they glide across the floor. I always thought dancing was magical. Yet, after taking lessons, I found out about the hard work and frustrations as well as the rewards.

My husband and I were taking ballroom dance lessons just about the time my mother was diagnosed with dementia with Lewy Bodies. My father had already died; my brother was in another state and ill as well. So her care fell to me. I usually just take charge, but that doesn’t always work with someone whose judgement is impaired. She resisted strongly; I became frustrated. Much like a dance, we went back and forth and back and forth. I came to wonder was I her lead, or her partner?

Her Story

In reading Daniel Siegel’s The Developing Mind, one quote stood out : “A story is created by both teller and listener.” The quote made me question if this could also true of the visual story in my paintings.  When I paint, is it my story alone or is the viewer involved?

With my mother I attempted to understand how she was feeling? But I also realized that my capacity for endurance, pain, and suffering was different from hers or even my husband’s. I was left with my imagination and hopefully, my empathy. But I did wonder how she felt about being told she must move into assisted living, that someone would to be there when she showered to make sure she didn’t fall, and when she toileted to keep her clean.

Their Story

So what about the viewer or the listener?  I now recognize their part and know that they can add to the story or even change it.

I look at myself and other artists as both archeologists and architects.  We are diggers of history and truth, gatherers of ideas, and manipulators of bits and pieces. Perhaps none of my of my paintings are completely my own for I am history, a bit of this and a piece of that, a part of her and some of them.

Shifting Fragments

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Shifting Fragments, 16″ x 16,” Mixed media painting with collage on deep wood panel

We all know you can’t prepare for everything. We want change that is gradual and slow so we can see it coming, but life has way of sideswiping you when you least expect it.

Almost 6 years ago my husband had a “heart incident” as we like to call it. His heart fluttered, skipped a beat and threw a small clot. Even the paramedics could find nothing wrong when they arrived, but he felt a pain like “toothache” in his chest. So just to be safe he went to the hospital. While there was no damage, we discovered that sometimes he has an irregular heartbeat. “Sometimes” was really hard to deal with at first, but now after so much time he just exercises, eats right, and carries nitroglycerine in his pocket.

 I was reminded again of how slowly, and quickly, things change and could change, while hiking the trails in Stone Mountain State Park. The large rock faces with layers and splits big enough for climbing were formed by geological exfoliation. While they seem impenetrable, as if they will be there for thousands of years, the reality may be different. The change to these rocks is climate related and normally happens very slowly, but according to the park rangers because we don’t know the depth of the splits there is always the risk that rocks, particularly those with vertical and horizontal cracks, will shatter and slide. Of course, should there be an earthquake, they could crumble very quickly.

It’s both a bit scary and a bit comforting how human life parallels nature.  Mostly, the changes are gradual, but we are all shifting.

 

 

Leaning In

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“Setting Boundaries III: Leaning In,” 14″ x 11″, mixed media on deep wood panel

 

We hear so much these days about how divided the country is, how one group is just so very different from another. It true, we are different; yet, we are the same. I personally believe it is not either. It is both.

The problem is fitting it all together. How can we “be an individual” if we are like everyone else? How can we support each other despite our differences? How can we trust each other? How can we bend just a bit to keep the structure whole?

Leaning in is not a weakness. To me it takes incredible strength. Just as the structure of a building depends on every component working together, community is also about support—even when we don’t agree. It’s about leaning in—both to get support and to give support.

Leaning in is not about destroying the differences and making everyone and every group the same. Without the differences, without the sameness, and without the leaning in, the picture would not be nearly as beautiful or bold.

Disconnected

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Disconnected from Time  12″ x 12″ x 2.5″, mixed media on deep wood panel

When I travel and wake up in a strange place, it sometimes takes a few seconds to realize where I am and to connect myself with my surroundings. Memories can be the same way. Often when we run into a friend from childhood or college, we can pick up right where we left off. There is a sense of the familiar.

Other times, not so much. Either we have changed or the other person has changed, but we feel disconnected and can’t seem to pick up where we left off. This piece depicts that estrangement. As Carly Simon once said, “One of us is changing or maybe we just stopped trying.”

 

 

 

Ah Memories…

 

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A Current in the Mind 12″ x 12″ Acrylic on deep wooden panel ready to hang.

Novelist Julian Barnes’ view of memory is that “it is identity. When you forget your life, you cease to be, even before death.” Researchers now tell us we are constantly altering our memories each time we share them. If that is so, what does this say about our lives?

Do different memories really make us different people? Clearly, there are more questions than answers!

 For more information about this piece go to http://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-A-Current-In-the-Mind/515916/1737603/view

 

Art Lets Me Touch Someone

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“Breathing Ground III,” 24″ x 24″ on deep wood panel, sunlight on the marsh

Why creativity and art are even more important as we age

Reason#3 It Gives Me Reason to Hope

When you use your imagination, no matter what age, I believe you are creating hope even if you think you have none.

Paintings or any art created in despair that depicts an artist’s deepest pains, are still hopeful because by sharing there is a connection. And when there is a connection there is hope. It becomes something invisible that can cross the years and generations. Sometimes I think of myself as having an addiction, a gambling addition. Every time I paint I am gambling that it will be good, that it will touch someone.

 

Intersections

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“Intersections”

We all know life isn’t a straight line. But I am always amazed at its circular patterns whether in nature or in fashion.

It seems to me though that it is at the intersections that we have the most to learn—that we need to stop and take a breath.

Intersections

10” x 13,”mixed media on board

unframed, $85