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Trio: Exploring Dementia

Featuring the works of Betsy Goldsborough (1929-2018), Brenda Phillips (1956-2018), Margaret McCracken (1952-2019)

Exhibit dates June 14-July 6th
Opening Reception, June 14th at 5:30pm

TRIO: Exploring Dementia is an exhibit which follows the arc of how this disease influenced their work.  With an opening reception on Friday, June 14th from 5:30 to 7:30pm, the show will run through the 6th of July.  Along with the artwork, representatives and educational materials will be onsite from the Vermont Chapter of The Alzheimer’s Association, The Thompson Center, The Scotland House, and The Ottauquechee Health Foundation, as the aim is to bring a deeper understanding of the subject, provide resources available and create a conversation that continues after the show is complete. The work of these three artists, each of whom was diagnosed with a different form of dementia, follows the artistic transformations that accompanied their disease progression, providing a window into each artists’ unique experience.

In addition to the art exhibit, ArtisTree is hosting two films in the Grange Theater. Saturday, June 15th at 4pm, ‘I Remember Better when I Paint’, explores how people suffering from Alzheimer’s can be positively influenced by art and the creative process, followed by a Q&A session with representatives from the Alzheimer’s Association.  The gallery will also be available for viewing. The following week, catch ‘Of Mind and Music,’ a powerful feature film which explores dementia through the music of New Orleans’ French Quarter. Both films offer great opportunities to dive deeper into themes of creativity and dementia.

ARTISTS' BIOS

Elizabeth Goldsborough (1929-2018)

Betsy was best known as a prolific artist who painted countless pastel portraits and landscapes in both pastel and watercolor. Her amiable spirit was obvious to all who met and knew her. Her paintings were shown in juried local, regional and national exhibitions.

It is thought that the signs of dementia were recognizable around 2010 and in 2015 she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but yet Betsy’s passion for art kept her painting, including commissioned portraits until as late as 2014. It was necessary for her to leave her home which included a private studio in 2015. She moved to Vermont to be closer to 2 of her 3 children and get the proper care. In collaboration with the Thompson Senior Center Betsy joined painting classes at ArtisTree Community Arts Center.

Artist’s Statement:
Portraiture has been my “true love” for as long as I can remember - charcoal or soft pastel being my favorite medium of expression.  I am especially enamored with the beauty I see in every human face, without exception! Watercolor came into my life later on. I have had many inspiring teachers, “Experience” being the most  important, as well as the most demanding one! 

 

Margaret McCracken (1952-2019)

Margaret McCracken was born in Oberlin, Ohio on Nov. 17, 1952.  She began making art as a child and her talents were immediately evident. She studied art and painting at Pine Manor College and at Boston University. When she moved to Vermont in the mid 1970s, Margaret got a job with Linda Ethier, from whom she learned the art of making stained glass. Margaret began working on her own and created many stained glass windows, lamps, mirrors, picture frames, and free-hanging pieces. Working at home in an inadequately ventilated studio she got lead poisoning. Although she was cured through vitamin therapy, the lead poisoning could have had something to do with later health problems. She continued doing stained glass, but with better ventilation.

In the mid 1980s, Margaret began to suffer from fibromyalgia.  Because of the pain that she had in her shoulders and arms, she gave up doing stained glass in approximately 1988. 

Margaret then started doing more painting, mostly watercolors, and also made jewelry: beaded earrings and freshwater pearl necklaces. She brought her artistry to everything she did, from birthday cards to the invitations to her annual Yankee swap Christmas parties.  She found unique ways to be productive and creative.  For example, one 2007 photo album in this exhibit displays photos of trees which she digitally altered to display human or animal faces.

In 2015 Margaret was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), a type of frontal temporal dementia. It is an uncommon brain disorder that affects speech, eye movements, balance, coordination and reasoning, among other things. Margaret had stopped doing any type of art a few years before she was officially diagnosed, due to her inability to control the use of her hands. Her once superb fine motor skills were gone. Two abstract paintings that she did in the last month of her life show the effect of the disease on her abilities. 

 

Brenda Phillips (1956-2018)

Brenda was born on November 27th, 1956 in Tampa, Florida to George Wesley Phillips and Anne Dupre Dixon. She grew up wandering the jungles and beaches of Siesta Key, Florida where her mother “Dixie” had a small home. Brenda left Florida for Mount Holyoke College, where she reveled in the community of intellectual exploration and supportive sisterhood. At Mount Holyoke Brenda completed three majors, and was introduced to color theory and oil painting, which she pursued till the end of her life. She also met, on a weekend visit to Dartmouth, her future husband, Ted Moynihan.

After college, she and Ted lived and worked in Berkeley, California, New York City, and then in 1982 settled in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire. There, Brenda took an administrative job at R&D engineering firm Creare Inc, doing technical writing and project administration. Brenda left Creare in 1991 to care for her children and to focus on her painting, while also serving on the board of the AVA Gallery. In 1984, Brenda and Ted bought an 1860 farmhouse in Plainfield, where they were married in 1985, and have lived and raised their family since.

While on the surface Brenda’s life could appear a simple fairy tale, below the surface Brenda carried dark wounds from early childhood abuse. Brenda’s lifelong journey to understand that abuse was the deep process that both burdened and motivated her through much of her life. She was ultimately able to reveal, understand, and forgive the abuse. That final act of forgiveness was transformative and liberating, inspiring her joyous mothering, her adventurous spirituality, her generosity, and her exuberant painting.

Artist’s Statement:
“I find the process of making beautiful images is a powerful, joyful technique for bringing revelation into my life. This revelation can sometime feel like a message of Universal truth, and at other times it is more a conversation with hidden portions of my own self. I love color. Painting, for me, is the joy of putting one color next to another and watching them dance.”