Writing and audio aren’t the only arts we enjoy. Our Random Acts of Art projects spread encouragement in various cities, and Joey’s sculptures, videos and paintings are often exhibited in galleries and at events. She occasionally crafts jewelry featuring natural semiprecious gemstones, antique paper, pewter, glass, shell and antique or vintage components. A portion of each sale goes to help kids or pets in need.
Each sculpture begins with a research phase including interviews with people affected by the issue involved. Then I have to figure out how to make that information visual, staying true to the information I’ve gathered. My sculptures are made largely from repurposed and recycled materials. I think it’s important to show that durable, beautiful things can be made from these materials. A sculpture can take months to complete as it’s exacting work. The piece develops its own personality, and the final work is always a bit of a surprise. — Joey
Our first animated short, XX/XY: The Crone, made its debut in a gallery before moving online. It’s going off on its own journey and gained fans from around the world. The great thing about the internet is that you can see work from artists you might never have discovered twenty years ago.
You can view this digital short here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkxH6bMndZc
Simran: The Altar of Memory
Part of a series, “Interiors,” about outer selves and inner lives.
I had a clear idea when I started this piece, but it just wouldn’t take that shape. I tried to “fix” it. I fought with it, braced it, and finally decided to scrap it in frustration, Mark told me to put it aside and come back to it. “It’s trying to say something,” he insisted.
When I came back to it, I saw what he meant. I’ve had relatives and friends fall to Alzheimer’s. When you have Alzheimer’s, your loved ones often try to argue you into remembering, try to pull you back into your old self. They complain that you don’t listen. It’s frightening and frustrating for the person who has the illness, and for the loved ones who can’t stop its progression.
A doctor explained to me what happens in the brain when Alzheimer’s takes it, and a book by author Judith Horstman gave me more information. Interviews with people who have dementia, or live or work with people who do, filled in my understanding about what it’s like to have it. Neurons create pathways with each new memory and travel those pathways to bring the memory back. As Alzheimer’s takes over, those pathways get clogged or fray, so the neurons can’t get where they’re going. Early on, they may manage to hurdle the gaps, but the gaps get wider over time. If your mother always made sugar cookies at Christmas, the smell of sugar browning may make you think of Christmas and your mother, and how you felt at those times. Those are the connections that make you who you are. And they disappear.
Memories are multi-layered: sight, sound, touch, taste, scent, motion, emotion. I filled the sculpture’s head with memories, connecting each to the appropriate part of the brain. There’s a memory of the first time she held her baby, for example, that includes how he looked (sight), the sound of his voice (hearing), the “baby” smell of him (scent), how he felt in her arms (touch), and her emotions in that moment. Memory by memory, I connected her. If you look closely, there are tiny glass beads, representing neurons, running down some of the pathways.
Next, I randomly burned away some threads, or clogged others. There are some “neurons” in there that aren’t getting where they’re going. I imagine that, over a long period of time, others will snap. She is in the process of disappearing, slowly.
On the bottom of the sculpture I wrote her statement:
“I built my life day by day, moment by moment, layering choice upon choice, experience upon experience. My first step, my first kiss, the last time I held a loved one’s hand, never knowing that it was the last time. The things I liked to do, the foods I never did like, the faces I looked for in a crowd, all stored away. My mind made so many connections. Cinnamon smells like the cookies I baked at Christmas. I met my husband in a hotel restaurant where the air smelled like cookies and coffee, and the song, “Harbor Lights” was playing on a jukebox. This memory tied to that, scent, sound, sight, touch together. The sound of a voice, a certain word, the taste of strawberries, everything connected. These were my memories, my days, my life, me. At first I didn’t understand what was happening, why I couldn’t seem to remember things. People got impatient with me. They tried to make me remember. I wanted to! I was so frightened! I felt myself disappearing a little at a time, the connections fraying as I came apart. It isn’t my memories I’m losing. It is my self.”
Our friend, artist Aparna Agarwal, gave the sculpture its name. Simran is a method of contemplative meditation to enable a person to realize that they are an inseparable part of the divine. Aparna said that the sculpture looked as though “she has forgotten everything except the sacred name of God.”
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Copyright © 2000 – 2017 Joey and Mark Jones