The featured piece in Donna Cushing's first art show installation, The Long Goodbye, sure hit close to home. It was unveiled Thursday as part of Unmasking Our Voices Within: Mental Wellness Through the Arts, which is hosted at Sudbury's Impact Theatre through the NISA/Northern Initiative for Social Action.
Donna is my older sister and is a second-year art student at Cambrian College, where she has worked since the early 1980s. She is a computer technologist nerd when not creating beautiful things. The piece above is part of a three-panel series showing the transition of my parents' lives from young love to living with my dad's Alzheimer's.
I was honoured that she used one of my photos taken while they were walking down my driveway last summer. She used a variety of techniques to create a composite of layers, textures and extractions before printing on metal. (There's much more detail in the actual image than shown above.)
"Alzheimer’s is not part of getting older; it’s a terrible, nasty disease. It may hide the person beneath, but there’s still a person in there who needs and loves you," she stated in a description with her entry which is supplemented with relevant quotations. "The loss of time, memories, and the person who once was and yet, is still with us."
My mom saw the individual photos before the show but I shared with her this link to an online version so she could somewhat prepare for the full impact when viewing it the day of the show. She said it was tough and didn't want to create puddles in the gallery. There was, however, no way to contain such emotions.
"It's a tear-jerker," she said Sunday during our Mother's Day conversation, adding it's beautifully done and a great first step for Donna's foray into creating art for sale.
For those who don't know my mom, there couldn't be more contrast between her and my dad right now. They are about a decade apart in age yet light years away from each other in every other measurable way.
My mom has faced many tough challenges in her life. Her childhood was not for the feint of heart and, as a wife and mother, it wasn't much easier. She stick-handled three kids through an almost endless series of moves spanning two provinces and three states while suffering a variety of illnesses, injuries and surgeries. I know my troubles with a bad hip from the very beginning was tough on her too. Dealing with me as an anguished teenager would have been more than most could handle.
Through all that, Anna Dale worked at convenience stores, arena concessions and as a hotel breakfast lounge hostess while also babysitting many other children and pets. My dad, meanwhile, left her to it as he traveled extensively as a field operations accountant. He'd be gone for weeks and months at a time making sure big industrial-size projects were built in such places as Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and various countries in South America.
Coming out of Cow Shit Valley and a tough life in Cobden, ON, he did very well for himself as the bread-winner for his family of five. To end his life without the faculties he depended on to survive, to need so many people to take care of him, is a tragedy of monumental proportions.
But I think, a few steps beyond his tortured reality and nightmarish demise, the best illustration of their life together is reflected through her eyes and the puddles that result.
As you can see in the photo below, there are examples of her other work as well, with a variety of techniques taking some of her great photos and making them into excellent artistic expressions.