The Brinton Museum’s exhibit “Ergo Sum: A Crow A Day” opened April 27 and continues through June 10, Wednesday through Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. This exhibit originated with the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin, and focuses on dementia. The artist, Karen Bondarchuk, set out to mark the passing of time that her mother, Yvonne, no longer could.
She created 365 original works of art exploring time remembered with her mother. A gallery talk at The Brinton with artist Bondarchuk on May 2 was sponsored by the Woodson Art Museum, The Brinton Museum and Dementia Friendly Wyoming, a program of the Hub on Smith. Earlier that day Dementia Friendly Wyoming and The Brinton Museum welcomed the artist to the SAGE Community Arts in Sheridan for a meet-the-artist discussion regarding her experiences as a care partner.
Yvonne, diagnosed with dementia in 2010 began to gradually change. Eventually her speech and the ability to recognize the passage of time shifted as part of her condition. Bondarchuk recognized that her mother’s condition also called for a shift in their communication patterns and ways of being together. As time passed and Yvonne began to remember less, Bondarchuk realized how their relationship had changed and that, as a care partner, she now had to meet her mother where she was — emotionally.
On Aug. 1, 2014, Bondarchuk, as a part of processing her own emotions, became inspired to create a crow a day to illustrate and capture their communication, relationship and dementia-filled experience as a representation of ‘time remembered.’ Over a year, Bondarchuk fashioned the crow that best suited the memory or emotion that emerged in that moment-of-time, each day. Regardless of the other events in her life, Bondarchuk came back to the process of producing a physical diary by drawing crows in various ways to continually process and explore her evolving relationship with her mother as her condition of dementia progressed.
This daily process of creating also evoked tangles of sadness grief, and sorrow as well as joy and laughter. It also offered enlightening insights into new ways to truly connect with her mother in loving and meaningful ways.
“I felt in creating this series of drawings, it allowed me to slow down and appreciate those little things, those moments of the crows did a wonderful thing…” Bondarchuk said, “just appreciating something in life that could be a magical thing. It was those ordinary moments of magic that I really wanted to try to capture with this work.”
This exhibit, enhanced by Bondarchuk’s moving presentation of her work, along with Dementia Friendly Wyoming’s partnership with The Brinton, will launch the arts engagement project for persons living with dementia and their care partners at The Brinton. It will also provide further inspiration for bringing people together and enriching lives through the arts. Arts programs offer a unique opportunity for persons living with dementia to express themselves, continuing to live a life of meaning and purpose.
The Dementia Friendly Wyoming project is funded in part by grant number 90ALGGG0002, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201.
Heather Comstock is a dementia care educator and Kay Wallick is the program director of Dementia Friendly Wyoming.