Art Gallery

Portraits of Dementia

Image of elderly woman holding her hands up around her eyes

Joe Wallace, Rene Perkins, 2021; ink on paper, 28 x 35 1/4 inches (framed, approximate); Courtesy of the artist.

Exhibit Dates: February 9 – April 28, 2024
 

In 2022, over fifty million people are living with dementia globally. In the United States, one in three seniors suffers with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia at the time of their death. And yet despite the millions of individuals and families affected, dementia is often a taboo subject with limited public awareness or discourse. A diagnosis can become a mechanism for segregating those affected from society, making it easy to see only the label instead of the individual.

“…be joyful in every moment, because you might not have another one. If you just go to the grocery store, you can be kind to anybody you meet, and that could change their day.” – Bama Bradley, diagnosed with dementia

The typical narrative about dementia tends to focus on the clinical diagnosis or medical status of an individual, and is all too often depicted using fear, despair, and vulnerability. This narrow and incomplete view of dementia quickly becomes a powerful means to distance oneself from their humanity. Portraits of Dementia destigmatizes those living with dementia through moving portraits and stories of lives well lived.

“It is my hope that my story and the stories of others just like me will start a conversation and end the stigma that comes along with this disease. Just maybe I can bring a new face to Alzheimer’s so people know that it can happen to anybody, not just the elderly.” – Carrie Salter-Richardson, diagnosed with dementia

Trained as a journalist, artist Joe Wallace has been a portrait photographer and storyteller for twenty years. Like many, Wallace has a deeply personal connection with dementia. His maternal grandfather and hero, Joe Jenkins, had Alzheimer’s. His maternal grandmother had vascular dementia. And in recent years, his mother has begun her journey with the disease. Wallace was frustrated by the common, one-dimensional narrative of dementia—futility, despair, and loss. These are real and important elements of the dementia journey, but focusing only on the narrowest of views, very little is done to change the stigma of those living with the disease. Wallace feels strongly that to give the audience courage to act in ways large and small, you must show the whole story.

Wallace shows not only the fear, loss, and despair, but also the love, connection, dignity, and powerful humanity that always remain—in the subjects, in the care- partners, and in the families and communities. That is the only path to evolve the narrative and have a positive social change.

People living with dementia must be seen as people first, not as their disease. Public recognition of the enduring humanity of those who live with disabilities, including cognitive disabilities, will decrease fear and stigma. … Joe’s vivid photographs remind us of our shared humanity as well as the uniqueness of each person. -Beth Soltzberg, Director, Alzheimer’s/Related Disorders Family Support Program, Jewish Family & Children’s Service

This exhibition provides opportunities for rich programming and community engagement. Dementia impacts the lives of many people and this exhibition serves as a catalyst for community storytelling, learning, and healing. Artist Joe Wallace continues to add to this project and upon hosting Portraits of Dementia, could be contacted to collect more stories and portraits from your community. Additionally, this exhibition provides each hosting venue with the opportunity to foster new community partnerships. Special tours could be held for those with dementia and their caregivers. There is a powerful opportunity for local connection and collaboration with Alzheimer’s support groups, caregiver support and training, and councils on aging. Wallace has presented the work at university programs for social work and gerontology. Local libraries and agencies could work to archive community stories and photographs. Each booking will come with contact information for the artist, as well as a guide with ample programming resources. 


Opening in May

Jodi Stuart: Future Fabulist 

Future Fabulist - Opening reception May 30 at 5:30 p.m.

Exhibit Dates: Friday, May 31, 2024 – Sunday, August 18, 2024 

Opening Reception: Thursday, May 30, 2024 at 5:30 p.m. 

In Future Fabulist, Jodi Stuart explores the aesthetic of the digital technologies that saturate our lives, in relation to tactile and sensory experience. Her woven sculptural forms are made using the plastic filaments intended for 3D-printers. Through her materials and processes, Stuart replaces the computer with the human hand subverting the materials of high-tech culture in a nostalgic gesture towards the hand made.  

Stuart’s Future Fabulist exhibition consists of anamorphous, quirky and vaguely biological forms created by hand using a 3D-pen and plastic filaments. These are combined with colorful and pixelated background imagery, as well as super-synthetic materials such as acrylic rods and industrial foams. These works allude to craft traditions including weaving, knitting, and basket making; while hinting at virtual space, neural networks, cloud computing, and biomimicry. Her art practice explores ideas around the invasive materiality of consumer plastics, while playing on aspects of the virtual versus the physical, by integrating notes of contemporary culture’s aesthetic of hyper-stimulation and sensory overload. 

This body of work was initially inspired by a depiction of the inner workings of a cell from the computer animation called ‘The Inner Life of the Cell’ by Harvard University Biology Department, produced in 2006. The hyperrealist, educational, computer-generated imagery demonstrates the mechanisms of cellular processes, and in Stuart’s view, inscribing machinic connotations onto the tiny organic forms. Biology and technology have become increasingly interwoven since then. For example, describing cellular processes as ‘tiny machines’, medical treatments as 'bio-hacks', or even the term ‘genetic engineering.’  

In combination, Stuart’s bright synthetic colors, layered filaments, and textures combine to create optical and visceral sensations hinting at the insidious nature of technology and biomechanics. Her tone is kitsch, colorful, and playful in appearance, with forms that are ambiguous in meaning. Overall, she aims to create an immersive visceral experience where the viewer must constantly resist touching the deliberately inviting works.   

About the Artist  

Jodi Stuart was born in New Zealand, where she attained a Bachelor of Visual Arts from Manukau Institute of Technology, Auckland, and an MFA from Auckland University. Stuart currently lives, works, and teaches in Denver.   

Now based at TANK Studios, Stuart has previously been an artist in residence at RINO Art Park, part of Redline Denver’s Satellite Program. As well as exhibiting in her home country of New Zealand, Stuart has exhibited in California, Colorado, Michigan, Maryland, Texas, and Washington.