Four Shy Men and a Dancer

Artist Statement

Only a year or two after Kenyth and I married, he began showing troubling signs of memory loss; and I started caregiving him. It didn’t take long for my giddy joy and glee to become punctured by fear and worry. Never having been around anyone with dementia, I felt confusion and fear of the unknown. What was this strange state that was occurring for Kenyth?  What did it mean?

 

A little over four years after we reconnected and I married him, Kenyth was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. I tried to continue sculpting, but my work was very slow, as I attempted to spend two hours every day in my studio. My imagery was also full of grief. I was working in wire netting, and during this time my palette was somber: steely gray figures with prickly surfaces.

 

This grouping was made during the last five years of Kenyth’s life. The sculpted dancer is an aspect of myself, while the four shy men are aspects of my relationship to Kenyth.

 

The first one I made was: The Philosopher, a Question of Balance.

Kenyth was a philosopher (and Philosophy Professor.) He was also a dancer. I enjoyed making this large male figure in a gesture of receptive vulnerability. It was early enough in his disease that we held out hope it might be something else – anything else – but Alzheimer’s.

 

The second one I made was: No Exit.

I made it the year Kenyth was diagnosed; and we were facing his incurable, progressive disease, a deteriorating condition that ends in death. We both experienced a tremendous amount of anger at that time.

 

The third one was: Broken Hearted Dancer.

After the anger came grief.

 

The fourth sculpture I made was: Odalisque.

It speaks of my enduring love for Kenyth and the amazing gracefulness of his body and spirit. We both had begun to accept our difficult situation, work with it and make peace with it, as painful as it was.

 

The fifth sculpture I made was: Falling Man.

I made it during the final year of Kenyth’s life and finished it after his death. I modeled the face and hands from photos of him taken only a day before he died.

 

When I put the five figures together as a group, I realized that I wanted to incorporate dancers interacting with the sculptures. For me, dancers brought new life into the installation and thus expressed more clearly the “Cycle of Life and Death and Life Again” that is always occurring around us. Last March I put this installation into a store front in downtown Bellingham and spent a month with three dancers from Western – Valerie Goliff, Camille Dale and Ellie Evans – along with a small crew of videographers led by Elena Stecca, who made a documentary of the dancing experience. Viewers can see the video documentary upstairs. In this installation I am hoping the use of video footage will suggest the presence of dancers in the room.

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"No Exit"

wire netting, wire screening

detail view, above

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"Broken Hearted Dancer"

wire netting, wire screening and steel cube

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"Broken Hearted Dancer" additional views,

wire netting, wire screening and steel cube

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"The Philosopher: A Question of Balance"

wire netting and paper pulp

"The Philosopher: A Question of Balance" detail view

wire netting and paper pulp

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"Odalisque"

wire netting, wire screening and dice

with dancer and scarf

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Dancer with "Four Shy Men" Installation

wire netting, wire screening, paper pulp, steel cube,

and game dice

"Four Shy Men and a Dancer" video