Portraits of Dementia

Kinney-Lindstrom Gallery
July 5 – August 16, 2024

Joe Wallace, Rene Perkins, ink on paper, 2021. 28 x 35 1/4 inches (framed, approximate); Image courtesy of the artist.

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The photographic exhibition Portraits of Dementia is now on display at the Charles H. MacNider Art Museum.  It will be open for viewing through August 16, 2024.  This exhibition is sponsored locally by the Mason City Clinic Charitable Giving Fund.

More than 50 million people are living with dementia globally. In the United States, one in three seniors suffers with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia at the time of their death. And yet despite the millions of individuals and families affected, dementia is often a taboo subject with limited public awareness or discourse. Portraits of Dementia destigmatizes those living with dementia through moving portraits and stories of lives well lived.

Artist Joe Wallace has been a portrait photographer and storyteller for 20 years. Like many, Wallace has a deeply personal connection with dementia. His maternal grandfather and hero, Joe Jenkins, had Alzheimer’s. His maternal grandmother had vascular dementia. And in recent years, his mother has begun her journey with the disease. Wallace was frustrated by the common, one-dimensional narrative of dementia—futility, despair, and loss.

These are real and important elements of the dementia journey, but focusing only on the narrowest of views, very little is done to change the stigma of those living with the disease. Wallace feels strongly that to give the audience courage to act in ways large and small, you must show the whole story.

Through his photographs and storytelling, Wallace shows not only the fear, loss, and despair, but also the love, connection, dignity, and powerful humanity that always remain—in the subjects, in the care-partners, and in the families and communities. That is the only path to evolve the narrative and have a positive social change.

A diagnosis can become a mechanism for segregating those affected from society, making it easy to see only the label instead of the individual. As Carrie Salter-Richardson, diagnosed with dementia, says, “It is my hope that my story and the stories of others just like me will start a conversation and end the stigma that comes along with this disease. Just maybe I can bring a new face to Alzheimer’s so people know that it can happen to anybody, not just the elderly.”

“People living with dementia must be seen as people first, not as their disease. Public recognition of the enduring humanity of those who live with disabilities, including cognitive disabilities, will decrease fear and stigma . . . Joe’s vivid photographs remind us of our shared humanity as well as the uniqueness of each person,” states Beth Soltzberg, director of Alzheimer’s/Related Disorders Family Support Program, Jewish Family and Children’s Service.

This exhibition is toured by ExhibitsUSA, the national touring exhibition program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. ExhibitsUSA sends more than 25 exhibitions on tour to over 100 small- and mid-sized communities every year. These exhibitions create access to an array of arts and humanities experiences, nurture the understanding of diverse cultures and art forms, and expand the depth and breadth of cultural life in local communities, rural and urban. For more about ExhibitsUSA, email MoreArt@maaa.org or visit www.eusa.org.

The Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) strengthens and supports artists, cultural organizations, and communities throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and beyond. To learn more about M-AAA grants, programs, exhibitions, and fellowships, visit www.maaa.org.

The Charles H. MacNider Art Museum is free and open to the public.  Visitors are welcome during regular Museum Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Portraits of Dementia classes

Wed., July 24 from 10-11 am
Thurs., July 25 from 5:30-6:30 pm

This will be a class for persons with dementia and a caregiver to take
together. They will work with one another on an art project to take home. These classes will be free, thanks to a grant from Mason City Clinic. Call 641-421-3666 for more details.