matter and memory

“He who installs himself in becoming sees in duration the very life of things, the fundamental reality.”


I begin this study of my father in 2015. The work first exhibits in 2017, at the University of Arizona, School of Medicine, in downtown Phoenix. And it shows again in the summer of 2018, for an art exhibition/summer artist residency, at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

This week I find myself adding 3 new details to the composition. Next time it shows, it will be a little different. #NothingInStasis

When I start this work, dad is experiencing changes in his health. He takes a fall and because he describes how he tucks and rolls, I don’t worry too much. (Apparently he learned to tuck and roll while playing high-school football. I had no idea dad played football!)

Another fall causes my father to stop his daily swimming practice. Something feels different after this one. (In my childhood, dad was a summer lifeguard. He enjoyed swimming for as long as I can remember. My siblings and I still share memories of our summers at the pool.) Dad never returns to swimming.

Today, I better understand how changes in one’s health can signal changes in one’s brain. As covered in previous posts, dad is eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

Detail of some organs of balance in the composition.

Considering my father didn’t care to be photographed, he was open and easy with all the prep work necessary for this artwork. Frankly, he was much more comfortable than I, with the whole process. I remember him smiling for all the shots. If you knew my dad, he didn’t usually smile for photographs (he made faces). I sensed his respect for my work and I suspect he enjoyed being a part of it.

I add a coronavirus to the composition. Dad tested positive though remained asymptomatic until he tested negative.

So…
Dad left the planet last August. The medical examiner determined cause of death as Alzheimer’s Disease. And while there is truth to this, I think the death certificate should also note some complications ↑ due to Covid-19.

This week I found a book my father gifted me, titled Matter and Memory, by Henri Bergson.  Dad, always the avid reader, was a thinker and true educator. He particularly enjoyed talking philosophy. (It’s a complicated read. I have yet to finish it.)

Looking back, I recall the look on dad’s face when he saw the title of my first solo exhibit, in 1998, was élan vital (a phrase coined by Bergson in 1907). He was pleasantly surprised and though I should not have been, I was surprised he knew Bergson’s writing (Of course he did!). We enjoyed conversation that weekend of the opening, breaking down impulse, current, vital force, vital impetus…etc.

One of my last memories includes time with my father last Christmas (pre-pandemic). I bought him a small puzzle of the United States (For a short time in his life, he taught history).

Dad, where is Texas?
He points, Right here.
Put it in its place.
What’s to the west of Texas?
New Mexico! You lived there!
Yes, I did! Where’s New Mexico? He picks up the piece.
Where does it go? He points.
Fit it in dad. 

We move through the puzzle, one state at a time, both of us enjoying the process. When we are done, he’s happy and tired.

And 2 more additions to the study:
During my summer residency (back in 2018), I learn mitochondrial dysfunction appears to be a trigger for AD. I consider adding one. Yesterday, I paint this powerhouse of the cell into the composition.

These days, I’m learning about neurotransmitters. I learn about acetylcholine and cholinergic neurons ↓ and their connection to AD and add what I believe will be the final detail.

…My father left the planet in early August, ten days before my birthday. He lived a full and happy life. He was curious, thoughtful.

Dad, you are one cool guy! #UrBeautifulBrain

Still and curious. Continuing to learn.

#ProcessPhilosophy #NothingInStasis
#Motion #Change #Evolution
#VitalForce #CreativePrinciple


©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

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