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2.5m x 1.55m

‘MEMORIES’ (2007)

In May 2007, Alzheimer’s Australia Vic. (AAV), in receipt of a generous grant from the R.E. Ross Trust, commissioned the production of the “Memories” mural to mark World Alzheimer’s Day 2007. The theme for the 2007 commemoration of Dr Alzheimer’s discovery was dementia, art and music. The artwork was commissioned to demonstrate the often hidden skills and talents of people living with dementia in Melbourne. “Memories” was unveiled during Dementia Awareness Month, on September 21st 2007, at the National Gallery of Victoria.


The brief was to direct and produce a permanent artwork by working with individuals living with dementia in residential aged care and in the community. The decision was made to involve as many participants as possible so that the work was representative of a wide and diverse cross section of the community. The brief was to include residents of aged care facilities, members of an adult day care centre that specializes in dementia specific activities and outings, and participants who attend activity workshops at the AAV Dementia and Memory Loss Community Centre.


The “Memories” artwork is approximately 2.5m wide by 1.5m deep, and was painted by 93 participants during July and August 2007.


The “Memories” artwork and each of its interconnecting components is representative and symbolic of the concepts explored by the late Tom Kitwood. Kitwood wrote that comfort, attachment, inclusion, occupation and identity are all essential to sustain the wellbeing of those living with dementia.


The central flying figures represent two people flying on separate and individual paths, but together they share a common bond. They both search for parallel harmony and strong and lasting emotional attachments with other human beings.


On the left hand side, the skating figures represent the need to remain upright and balanced throughout life. It also acknowledges that at times we skate on thin ice and, if and when we do happen to put a foot wrong, the comfort and support of our family circle is essential. The groups dotted around this family circle represent attachment and that the need to nurture and protect one another. This need is central to our survival across every generation.


On life’s path, music may fill our time with pleasure, and our animals offer comfort and faithful companionship. It is a path that meanders uphill and down, and it is not always smooth seas or plain sailing. Sometimes an entire life is spent searching for a lifebuoy or an elusive beacon - that guiding light to navigate the way ahead and to help unravel life’s strange mystery and meaning.


The urban and city landscape represents our everyday life and work. Our homes are refuges for shelter and comfort and stability. We sometimes even take our homes with us on holiday. The two cyclists represent the ongoing and relentless struggle faced by carers of those living with dementia. At a time when we expect to slow down and glide gracefully toward a peaceful old age, we find ourselves cycling and working harder than ever before, riding the race of our lives, just to keep one step ahead.


As each blossom on the floral panel that spans the bottom third of the work is different, so too are the artists who created them. Each is affected by dementia differently. But irrespective of these differences, there is a primal need for every human being to keep their identity intact and to coexist harmoniously together. The need to be loved and accepted is overwhelming.


Encapsulated in the memories window that dominates the right hand section of the work, our hearts and memories flutter like fragile butterflies. They float in the certain knowledge that love remains the central core of our being and the window to our soul.


The “Memories” artwork is a celebration of life. It has the same depth and inner presence that is never lost in human beings, even when life begins its slow journey toward an end because of Alzheimer’s disease. The inner core is merely hidden by the characteristic mask that Dr Alzheimer first recognized a hundred years ago. Each of us has a mandate to see beyond this mask and to accept not only others, but the true person within ourselves.


Dr. Julie Gross McAdam gratefully acknowledges The R.E. Ross Trust and their generous grant to Alzheimer’s Australia Victoria.

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