Fighting for memory

On Friday's Sketch of the Week, I showed you these drawings I'd made of a ladyslipper.

Today, I'll tell you the story behind them.

For the last two years, I've participated in the Annual Walk to End Alzheimer's, hosted at Shelburne Museum. My great-uncle had it, but I admittedly was too young when he passed away to really know him. I've primarily done the walk to show my support for the team and for the Alzheimer's community in Vermont and beyond.

This year, however, it's personal.

A few months ago, my grandmother was diagnosed with dementia. Personality-wise, she's still gregarious, still adores her flowers, and loves playing with the dog next door. Yet she doesn't know who I am most of the time. Occasionally she does, but the moments are fleeting. One minute I could be me, but in the next I could be her daughter, her sister, or just some friendly stranger. Her disease has left me feeling sad, bewildered, and frustrated at my inability to do anything.

Yet I can do something. I can't cure dementia, I'm not a neurologist, but what I can do is create art with a purpose.

This year then, I've decided to get back into silkscreening, and donate the profits I make from that toward the Alzheimer's Association. Now I'll explain to you what I've been working on.

Ladyslippers come in different colors and forms, but it is the pink variety that populates my grandmother's front yard. Image courtesy of

What you're seeing is a ladyslipper, a flower that I associate with my grandmother. She's always had dozens of these orchids growing in her front yard (at one point she had over 200 of them). Every spring, I would hear her annual report on the ladyslippers, whether she wrote about it in a letter, told me about them over the phone, or, if I was lucky enough to visit in springtime, see them in person.

In short, ladyslippers  to me are synonymous with my grandmother, and if I'm going to dedicate my  next project to my efforts for the Walk to End Alzheimer's, I want it to be about her.

A few night ago then, I started sketching ladyslippers.

As I was drawing, however, I noticed something about ladyslippers that I hadn't seen before. I realized that, if your squint your eyes and use your imagination (and take a bit of artistic license in your drawing), the flower looks like a brain, the seat of memory.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

I subsequently tried out several versions of the image.

I used purple color pencil because purple is the color affiliated with the Alzheimer's Association.

 Ultimately I decided that the brain aspect was more legible from the front than from a 3/4 view.

The latest sketches. The actual silkscreen will be printed with purple ink.

So that's what I've been experimenting with up to now. At this point, I'm still sketching, but as the project gets underway I'll post updates on here. My eventual plan is to print my design onto t-shirts, tote bags, pillows, whatever sparks demand. 50% of the profits will be used to cover my supplies, but the rest will be going to the Alzheimer's Foundation.

I may not be a neurologist, but I'm going to take on this disease with my mind, hands, heart, and ink.