Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Bob Keyes firstname.lastname@example.org
SPRINGVALE — For the longest time, Pamala Crabb had little interest in showing her multimedia abstract encaustic and acrylic paintings about her father’s descent into Alzheimer’s disease.
Artist Pamala Crabb of Springvale will show her multimedia abstracts in an exhibition called “Alzheimer Forgets,” inspired by her personal feelings about her father’s illness. Crabb is shown in the studio she created in her home.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
Pamala Crabb will show her acrylic and encaustic works next month at Whitney Galleries in Wells.
“ALZHEIMER FORGETS” BY PAMALA CRABB
WHERE: Whitney Galleries, 1810 Post Road, Wells
WHEN: Nov. 7-24, with opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 8. Regular 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday to Sunday
INFORMATION: pamalacrabb .com
ALSO: Panel discussion about Alzheimer’s 1 p.m. Nov. 16
The subject was just too personal.
She felt better about opening up after a well-received show in a Rochester, N.H., frame shop, where visitors overwhelmed her with thanks for exploring the difficult subject. The response led Crabb to reconsider her reluctance to publicly address her family’s private journey.
“Doing this work has helped me deal with everything related to my dad, and accept him for who he is now. If I can help other people too, then maybe this is what I’m supposed to doing here,” said Crabb, who lives in Springvale and shows a range of work at galleries in Maine and around New England.
Emboldened with the knowledge that her work helps others with similar grief, loss and confusion, she will show more than two dozen works in November at a new southern Maine gallery, Whitney Galleries in Wells.
“Alzheimer Forgets” opens Nov. 7 and continues through Nov. 27. At 1 p.m. Nov. 16, a doctor who specializes in neurological disease and a caregiver will talk about the disease and how families cope.
Ansel Crabb, now 77, has been showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s for about a decade. His daughter first noticed his forgetfulness when he couldn’t remember the stories that he told for decades. Now, he doesn’t recognize Pamala at all, and refers to her as “the one from Maine.”
A Houlton native, he moved to Connecticut to make his living as a “steel monkey,” his daughter said. He helped build many of the high-rises around Hartford, and also worked on the Alaska pipeline. “He worked hard all his life,” Pamala Crabb said. Soon after he retired, symptoms of the disease began showing themselves, and it’s been a steady decline since.
He lives at home, with his wife, who provides his daily care.
Crabb decided to make art about her father and his disease the day he no longer recognized her. She returned home from her visit, distraught that she and her father were disappearing from one another, and wrote a poem about her experience. She called it “Alzheimer’s Forgets.”
“Slipping Away into the deep forest
Each tree passed less remembered
Till the last leg of the journey when in the clearing
I stand alone surrounded by nothingness
Am I even here?
The coldness – the alienation
The tears – the realization
The complete disappearance – The awareness of the missing
Everybody is nobody
Where have you gone?
My father has Alzheimer’s disease. Today my father did not remember me.
I felt invisible. All that connected me with my Dad was done. I was gone. I did not exist. Dad did not exist.
Was it ever there to begin?”
Her abstract art work, which mostly hangs on the walls, conjures a feeling of walking through a birch forest. She makes large panels layered with wax and paint. The forest’s light trees are darkened by shadows, which creep ever closer to the clearing until they engulf them completely.
“By the time you finish walking through, you’re not sure where you are. The trees are disturbed, they’re upside down, they’re confused,” Crabb said.
She’s been working on the series several years, and plans to continue it as the disease runs its course. “The more he regresses into nothingness, the more disturbing the series becomes,” she said.
Crabb has lived in Maine for decade. She’s married to military husband, who worked in Italy before being transferred to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery.
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click image to enlarge
A 2013 acrylic on canvas by Pamala Crabb from "Alzheimer Forgets"