I need creativity breathing into my heart.

If I had the energy to be embarrassed I might be embarrassed.

I might be embarrassed that for now I no longer seem to be writing about making art. I might be embarrassed that my blog states it is ‘about my art and other things’ when it has become about ‘other thing’s and not so much about ‘art’.

I might be embarrassed that the ‘other things’ have become almost exclusively about my husband’s journey, his descent into that tangled web of lost brain function, that dark and lonely place of dementia beyond reach of others. With his descent into that dark place my journey as his carer follows a parallel path.

I might be embarrassed that the studio I thought would be constructed and finished last Easter is still nowhere near finished but I’m not. There are reasons for that. I’m frustrated about the studio construction but that is a different story.

My husband’s name is Alberto, he is currently in hospital and has been there for over two weeks. Alberto was admitted to hospital with pneumonia. Although we are told the pneumonia is gone, he is still very unwell. With the pneumonia came a deterioration in dementia symptoms and he now inhabits a place I would never wish for him or anyone else to be.

In theory I am temporarily released from my immediate duties of carer, and while that is a partial respite, partial because I spend every afternoon with him at the hospital, it does in theory give me time in the morning when I might be able to think and make art.

It is not impossible to make art without a studio, I have managed to do so without one before, but it is much more difficult than having a space to walk into that welcomes you and breathes creativity into your heart.

I need creativity breathing into my heart right now because I feel that Alberto’s disease is sucking the life from both of us.

I could write reams about the experience of visiting Alberto in hospital. I am minded of the soul who is in the bed opposite to Alberto. This Soul gives a day-long running commentary about what is happening in his line of sight and it includes himself in the third person. The commentary is often amusing, always sad but is also an interesting insight to how we all have that running commentary in our heads. What we usually have with that commentary is the ability to censor wayward thoughts but for this Soul the censor is gone.

I say that the censor is gone but I do not know this Soul and it is possible he did not have the internal censor I am referring to in the first place, although to be fair, I suspect he did. It seems that in the current climate many seem to have lost their censor with the result that hate is spewed from their uncensored mouths. I am embarrassed that I am of the same species and can only hope we find a way for people to learn to be kinder, both to themselves and to others.

I will stop now, not because I could not write more but because I could.

A cat drinks from a puddle in my under construction studio.

What is this life, if…

As I watch my new studio slowly rise from the ground and anticipate being inside it working on the unfinished paintings I had to put aside when I moved out of my last much loved very large studio, I wonder.

I wonder about how I’ll organize my time, for time needs to be organized if I am to make things work. So much of my time is now taken up with caring for my husband whose Alzheimer’s progression continues to rob each of us of the lives we wanted.

It is important to have time to sit and stare yet I have little opportunity for that. It is something I really miss for I cannot get lost in that place where time stands still and the mind can flow. I cannot do that because I have to be cognisant of every moment of the day and night. Sleep, when it’s available is always with an ear cocked to catch any movement from my husband.  My husband can wreak havoc with his room and himself in the middle of the night if he wakes and is left to himself. I’ve mentioned about this behaviour before and trust me, this much I know.

I am quite disciplined when it comes to studio work, in order to work, you work. I do not wait for inspiration but work towards it. Even so it is important to sit and stare. I’m with William Henry Davies in his poem:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night. No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Sometimes it’s possible to steal time out in the very early morning and do my staring at the squirrels hiding their food. The village where I live, Bugbrooke, has its fair quota of squirrels. There are also other things worth standing to stare at.

I smile, laugh, shout, almost and do scream at times for it is impossible to be a patient saint even should I aspire to that, well forget the saint part but at least the patience….

I so need the patience, not least for hubs’ dressing and undressing. The logical steps in getting clothed and unclothed are somewhat more complex than most of us give a thought to. It is not enough to say now put your trousers on. Trousers can be put on back to front, or several times, because once having got them on him if I’m foolish enough to let my attention wander, the trousers can be off again a lot quicker than they went on in the first place. Trouser legs can be twisted so that it is difficult to push a leg through, yes really. Attempts to put trousers on either from a sitting or standing position becomes a long drawn out debate. Then comes the next sequential problem, button, zip and belt. I have to remember to repeat the order it’s done in, and that is usually more times that I have hot dinners in a week.

Coincidentally the wider world has gone into a sort of madness since the time of my husband’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and for sure my world has become a very different and not so good place.

Thinking of those unfinished paintings the question I ask myself is when I am in my new studio will I be able to continue and complete them? Will they still speak to me or will I have to abandon them and begin something new? The answer is, I don’t know.

I sometimes think about the different situations of Van Gogh and say Picasso, just how their circumstances made what they did possible or not possible.  What sort of struggle was more difficult, what was seemingly successful or what was failure? Who knows, I could go down that byway and write a thesis on one or the other but all in all it’s pretty much irrelevant to me,  it is just where the mind goes sometimes.

Most of us are buffeted by fate at times, some more than others but each buffeting creates choices. Often they are choices we don’t want to make but still they are choices. It didn’t feel like I had much of a choice in being my husband’s carer, but still it was. It feels that I have more of a choice when I choose to find a way to keep on painting as soon as the studio is ready.

 

New Studio - Linda Sgoluppi
The new studio in construction. There will be large windows in the gap shown.

Squirrel Churchyard Bugbrooke 29 April 2017 - Linda Sgoluppi

Not Insomnia drawings

Never quite know what life with hubs’ Alzheimer’s is going to surprise me with. Up until about ten minutes ago throughout the night at least every half hour he decided that something was necessary. So now his teeth are uber clean, his sock drawer sorted, (not in the way you or I would do it, but hey ho), his wash bag sorted (ditto) his bed rearranged, his wardrobe rearranged, and he has dressed several times usually putting his clothes over his pyjamas.
If you read my previous post about his shaving in the middle of the night, this time he couldn’t shave because I made sure there was no razor for him to find and also hid the plug for the sink, that saves the bathroom being flooded when he leaves the tap running and the plug in. However the one that really assaulted my exhausted and befogged brain was the overwhelming aroma of mens eau de perfume. I have no idea where he found the old previously unopened bottle that had been an expensive present given to him about twenty years ago.
I’ve never liked the overuse of perfume. I’m the one who could have been the character in an old advert for some cold remedy, in it the guy has a cold so cannot smell and decides to be sure to smell ‘good’ before presenting a bunch of flowers to his amour’. He knocks the door to her gaff and upon opening she is so over-assaulted by almost agent orange-strength aroma, falls back as if she has been drop kicked. Well folks that is how the house smells right now.  I suspect that the smell will hang around for some time, it’s so strong it’s making me feel light-headed, or maybe the light-headedness is just lack of sleep.
As an aside; if anyone, friend or family thinks about buying hubs a fancy aftershave as a present for his approaching birthday don’t, alright? Just don’t.
I find it astonishing how he can actually be awake considering the amount of medications he is on, including medication to help him sleep, I would have thought it was enough to make a horse sleep but then he’s not a horse.
In the few minute interludes between sorting all the above out and getting him back into bed I remembered I was going to do more drawing until I have my new studio. The best laid plans and all that…. I own a book called The Insomnia Drawings – Louise Bourgeois, she committed to paper whatever thoughts, memories, and images surfaced during her long sleepless nights. I admire her for doing that. Maybe that is what I should do, however it seems it feels different when it is your own insomnia rather than someone else’s that keeps you awake.
For now I seem to be being not very productive, but I can live with that. I know that this period of my life will feed into some future work that may be more, or less, apparent when it does.
The photo of me was taken by hubs at the Léger Museum in Biot, France in 1987.
linda-sgoluppi-at-the-leger-museum-biot-france-1987

Thus is the world of Alzheimer’s

I seem to have less to write about art wise at the moment, I’m still waiting for my studio to be built.  I’ve written about one of my days as a carer for my husband who has Alzheimer’s.

Half an hour after I got hubs back from the Day Care Centre yesterday, he’s sitting on the sofa he jumps up saying he’s got to collect paperwork from Bugbrooke. It’s at that point I have to decide in an instant to:

a/ Enter his reality and say we’ll do it later (I know that won’t work because he is very stubborn and won’t wait).
b/ Tell him he’s already done it (that’s full of pitfalls too)
c/ Point out he’s already in Bugbrooke and does not have any paperwork to collect.

I go for c/ then suggest we go for a walk (distraction) even though my back hurts, my hip is sore and I’m generally knackered.

The distraction seemed to work and with a friend we go walk.

When he walks hubs has two paces, a snail’s pace and a slow snail’s pace. Also he insists on bringing up the rear, he will not walk in front or in between, therefore it’s necessary to be looking over my shoulder every few seconds. Even so he manages to divert at times and then boy, does his pace pick up, and I have to do a quick figure of where, in seconds he has managed to get to.

Eventually it is bedtime and I collapse in my bed hoping for a good night….

Alas…..

Hubs decides that halfway through the night it’s time to shave. I usually do most of his shave, leaving him to do just a bit to help him feel less dependent than he is. However for safety’s sake I don’t leave razors around (note to self, don’t leave old razor in the bin). He managed to find razor in the bin and have a partial shave. I was so exhausted I’ll admit to not having got up that time so wasn’t 100% sure what he was doing until I did get up when he needed guiding back to his room.

Next night-time fun was him stumbling around. When I ask what he’s doing he tells me he’s killed three ‘of those little animals’ (his way of referring to insects). I know that at times I have to enter his reality but I didn’t, I pointed out there were no insects, he pointed to the floor and said ‘yes there are, they’re there’. Nope, there was nothing… but I said well Ok they are dead now so go back to sleep.

I get him settled and hope for some sleep, then hear him again. This time he’s getting into his trousers, I point out it’s rather in the middle of the night and a good idea to get back in bed.

Thus is the world of Alzheimer’s.

my-studio-to-be-linda-sgoluppi

St. Valentine and the kissing gates.

My new studio build is proving to be quite challenging time-wise. It is frustrating to me that I do not currently have a working studio, I will have a studio and hopefully some free time to be in it away from being my husband’s carer. I’ve mentioned before that Hubs is an Alzheimer’s sufferer.

Because my garden is bounded by a brook the studio foundations have to be with constructed with deep reinforced piles, the piles were put in by a specialist company and I was feeling optimistic that we are beginning to make the headway that I’d hoped for at the tail end of last year. However today something happened to demonstrate to me that optimism is not an option for those connected to someone with Alzheimer’s.

Today is 14 February, St Valentine ’s Day and today is the day that Alzheimer’s chose to demonstrate that my husband can no longer understand how a kissing gate functions.

For those not familiar with kissing gates, they are small gates (single) hung in a U- or V-shaped enclosure, allowing only one person through at a time. It means that the gate cannot be left ‘open’ and livestock cannot get out. Some kissing gates have a regular gate next to them, often that is locked but at times also left open.

With a friend we were slow walking our youngest son’s family dog in our village of Bugbrooke in Northamptonshire. The dog knows how the gate works and slipped through without aid, but even having seen the dog do it hubs was completely stumped. In effect a kissing gate is a fence if you do not know how it is supposed to function.

Hubs was perfectly familiar with kissing gates and has used them since coming to England as a young boy from Tuscany more than sixty years ago. However today the kissing gates presented a barrier to him like a solid fence, he just could not would figure out how to get through it.

We had to pass through two of these gates in our village for our walk, the first time I watched for a few seconds before helping him through, the second time I watched for slightly longer to see if he would figure it out but seeing him beginning to panic I guided him through.

St Valentine is a Saint, I am not. I felt irritation with my husband at the kissing gates. it made me feel as irritated as I have felt with the slipper /wellingtons saga we go through… but that is a different story…

I do not need anyone to tell me I have to have patience, I know I have to have patience, but patience is finite and runs out no matter how determined I am that it shouldn’t. After hubs was through the second gate, I looked at the gate for a few seconds and could see how it had suddenly become another major barrier instead of a portal or way through. I felt like raging at fate, but I don’t have the energy anymore to rage at fate, I’m too busy opening kissing gates.

 

new-studio-build-feb-2017-linda-sgoluppi

Another leaf

sea-kale-leaf-linda-sgoluppi

My wordpress blog site says ‘This WordPress.com site is about my art and other things.

It seems to me that in the last few posts it has been more about ‘other things’ than art even though it is still my art that drives me to write the blog posts.

The picture of my studio that is at the head of my blog site is one I like a lot, yet the studio it shows is already in the past, it was a lovely place and huge space for a studio but it is in the past and I no longer have it. There is  now a hiatus between the old studio and the one that is under construction, so until I can post a photograph of the new studio I leave the old one there.

The new studio will eventually rise from the ground but it is taking time to do that. Getting out of the ground is so often the frustrating time in construction, and my studio is no exception. I have had to learn to have more patience than I thought I possessed, patience for the 24/7 carer for my Alzheimer’s suffering husband, and in waiting for my studio to rise. Building-site wise the studio’s location couldn’t have been more difficult but those difficulties are being overcome. I dreamed of being in the space by Christmas 2016, now I just dream of being in the space.

In the meantime I deal with each day as it comes. My husband’s memory continues to disintegrate and that is sad. Conversations become ever more bizarre. People often assume that Alzheimer’s is just about forgetting the past but it is more than that; it is about forgetting how to do the most basic of things such as which left/right shoe to put on which foot, how to shave, and many more things each of us do in a day without giving conscious thought to it.

Without a convenient space to work I just have to suspend doing some of the things I want to do. I have work that I started in the old studio, suspended it waits to become what it will become. I draw when I can and oddly it seems I’m often drawing leaves. A dried sea-kale leaf picked up at Dungeness at Christmas, a leaf picked up from the Millennium Green in my village of Bugbrooke in Northamptonshire.

It’s extraordinarily difficult to draw while being constantly interrupted. My husband’s disease is demanding, it hates to see someone doing their own thing, it wants the attention and if it doesn’t get that attention it finds scarily mischievous ways to get it, therefore time to draw tends to be in the dark of the night or early morning, often when exhaustion is begging for sleep.

It was good to exhibit my latest works on canvas 78 Derngate . They are a series called Plato’s Cave, it’s always good to see a new series hung together out of the studio.

I’ve always been rather trigger happy with a camera, I like catching those moments in a landscape or situation as I pass through life and them. I love the advent of the mobile phone camera, it’s so perfect to be virtually guaranteed to have a camera always with me. My circumstance have curtailed my wanderings so I tend to be mainly within the village, and snapshots have been of my village surroundings. I so want to work in my studio again but until then what I can only do what I can do and that will have to suffice.

Artist, Carer and a Church Spire

 

withered-leaf-nov-2016-linda-sgoluppi

Withered leaf – drawing by Linda Sgoluppi

My husband’s Alzheimer’s has been taking up more of my life, I am his carer or caregiver, (the term for this activity is dependent on where in the world you live.) I was told that deterioration in this horrible disease is in a series of steps rather than down a slope and so it has proved to be. Those steps appear suddenly and I find that my life has changed yet again.

I’ve not been able to paint for nearly half a year, not just the disease but also circumstances surrounding working space. However I am ever optimistic, at least as far as my painting is concerned, for now I draw a little when I get an opportunity. I also have an exhibition of paintings called Plato’s Cave at 78 Derngate Northampton until 18 December 2016.

My husband now goes to a care centre for two part days a week and when I have my new studio I will use that time to paint and who knows I may be able to work a little in the evening.

My new studio is going to be at the end of the garden at home and is due to be started this coming week. I am told it won’t take too long to build once the considerable ground works are done. Foundation piling will go down to nine metres and I can sure see the truth that is often mentioned on the architecture programme Grand Designs that so much of the costs of building are sunk into the ground before a building even gets out of it.

There was some resistance to the planning application for my studio from a few neighbours. Objections mainly based on the contention that a view of the local church will be lost from across my private garden from some distance at the other end of the street. Yet the architect and I were very mindful of the studio’s position and worked to design something that sits happily on its site. Historic England and the Council’s own conservation officer saw no problem with our plans.

In one objection a neighbour used an image of the Mona Lisa and a tic-tac box to make an analogy about seeing the view across my garden to the local church from the aforementioned distant view. The Mona Lisa was to represent the Church, the tic-tac mints box was to represent my studio. It was claimed the tic-tac box at some distance from the Mona Lisa ruined a view of the Mona Lisa.

In fact the only view of the church that can be seen from the point in question is of the Church Spire and the only way that would be lost is if we were to build a Shard-like high building. However the reason I mention this is that it was a piece of art, an image of a famous painting that was used to try to prevent my studio from gaining permission. The irony was not lost on me.

I’ve recently read Van Gogh’s Ear – The true story by Bernadette Murphy. Among other things the author describes Van Gogh’s studio space in Arles, and how that space was so important to him and his work. It was to that space that some unkind groups went to stare in the windows at him after one of his breakdown episodes, yet now there would be few that don’t recognise Van Gogh’s work and the creative value of it to society.

It’s easy to see a work of art in an art gallery or museum and forget that its making wasn’t made in some high-falutin corporate type space or its medieval equivalent, yet just about every artist has to have a studio space of some sort or other. Art does not just materialise, it has to be created, there has to be certain conditions for its creation.

It was good to work on how the studio would be with a very good architect. So much of what we admire from buildings in the past was considered avant-garde, or just different at the time they were built and now we, rightly, want them protected. New buildings can sit very happily with old buildings and so often look better than pseudo-architecture that blights much of new building. If we constantly temper our architects with planning rules that have little value other than to avoid change then there will be little in the future worth preserving.

Artists have to function in their everyday life, my everyday life has changed beyond what I could have imagined and it is not a change I sought or wanted. I want to continue my journey as an artist, I have to continue my journey as a carer, so I need to reconcile those two things. I hope that the new studio will help to do that.

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Sunset on a Church spire from the churchyard – Linda Sgoluppi