Mar 26, 2011

Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope

If you were to view the names of my own family members who have, or have had, Alzheimer's or some form of dementia...this is what you would see, my own little purple names quilt made with the 15 names of parents, aunts, and uncles...who all have had, or now have...Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia...and then as I look at them, and talk to my other family members.... I wonder, me? you?, I had to add those strips in, as well.

And I chose to leave one strip empty and blank...perhaps to signify that endless space of the mind, in our hearts, and in the numbers. For believe it or not, 5.4 million people today have Alzheimer's...and really and truly, we should all wonder who among us will be next. And as I think about my own remaining family members... any one of us might have our name written on my last little purple strip.

I made this little quilt just this week, knowing that the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative was opening their newest traveling exhibit in Amherst, Ma. today. The exhibit is titled: "Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope." And each of the quilts in that exhibit show a different perspective of how we all look at, feel, and experience, Alzheimer's in our lives ....or the lives of those we know and love.

This AAQI traveling exhibit consists of fifty-four small format art quilts, none larger than 9" x 12", are hung amidst 182 "Name Quilts, " each 6 inches wide and 7 feet tall, carrying the names of more than 10,000 individuals who have/had Alzheimer's or a related dementia. The names of loved ones, written on the on the purple fabric patches by family members and friends, to honor the 5.4 million Americans in the United States living with Alzheimer's.

Those quilts, like mine above, speak volumes, for each name signifies the heart and soul of someone who has been forever changed by this terrible disease. And each of them, in turn, affects entire families...just as my 15 names have affected so many families in my own.

I am deeply touched, humbled and proud to be a participant and quilt maker for two of the art quilts in the "Heartbreak to Hope" exhibit and to also have names of my loved ones among the 183 purple name quilts.

Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope begins its five year tour opening with the "Hands Across The Valley" Quilt Show today and tomorrow, March 26 and 27. The exhibit will hang at the Mullins Center on the University of Massachusetts Campus in Amherst, MA.
It this exhibit comes to any place near you...please go see it. And if you can, sponsor it coming to your own area for viewing.

Our own AAQI founder and executive director, Ami Simms will present two programs called "Quilting & Caring: The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative" on Saturday, March 26 at noon and again on Sunday, March 27 at 11 am. She and co-curator Kathy Kennedy-Dennis will be in attendance to speak with visitors about the exhibit.

I feel so very privileged to have these two quilts in this exhibit.

#5211 - Mama's Brain Got Tangles...but Mama's Still Inside
Michele M. Bilyeu
Salem, OR USA

Artist's Statement: Like my mother's memory, this art quilt consists of many layers, tangles, and threads...with spots of clarity and light hidden amidst the colorful (but often chaotic) surface layer.
Dedication: For my mother who continually pushes through the advancing layers and tangles of Alzheimer's with infinite grace and humor.

#6399 - The Alzheimer's Prayer
Michele Bilyeu
Salem, OR USA

Artist Statement: I grieve for the loss of my father, and honor his strength, determination, and fortitude in helping my mother face the challenges of her Alzheimer's. He lovingly cared for her, helped her to retell those memories she still retained, and brought forth the bits and pieces of her fragmented life. With this quilt and my own prayers, I pray that other care givers will have the same love and devotion that he had and care for their patients and loved ones, as the people they truly are...and not just who they seem to have become.
In honor and memory of my father, a loving care giver, and with the deepest love for my mother who is now in her fifth year of Alzheimer's. In spite of being blind, diabetic, and unable to walk, she still reaches out her heart to us with love.

See some of the 183 Name Quilts ...seen behind Alex and Ricky on the wall above.... on their Quilt Show on YouTube:Quilt Show with Alex and Ricky

Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative
Quilts Selected For "Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope" Exhibit.
check out all of the art quilts in the traveling exhibit.
Name Quilts: check these devastating sad and amazing that 182 quilts could be made completely out of the names of people who have or have had Alzheimer's Disease!
The Artists: Yes, I submitted my resume but they are so busy right now, they haven't had time to publish it.

Michele Bilyeu quilts for AAQI..the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative. Won't you please join us? :)


Unknown said...

Congratulations Michele! How wonderful to have two quilts in this exhibit. And thank you or all you do and all the links you share with us.

Anonymous said...

Your purple names quilt really hit me in the gut thinking about how I would feel if that were me and my relatives. Thanks again for sharing your stories, your quilts and all that you do with all of us.

Anonymous said...

Love that collage photo. Nice way to put it all together. Congrats on the quilt show. Wished I lived closer so I could take it in.

Anonymous said...

I have been a blog fan of yours for years and years. I'm not much of a quilter but I love how you write and what you write about. This is an example of that. Congratulations to all of the quilters in this exhibit....Terri L.

Shelina (formerly known as Shasta) said...

I can't imagine what it would be like to have so many people in your family be afflicted with this horrible illness. In fact, I don't want to imagine it, it sounds just dreadful. You are handling it so well though - not only with taking care of your family members, but also with keeping the situation in the front of everybody's minds, and are really helping Ami's project keep up the momentum.