Monday, October 14, 2013

Dementia: The Self Portraits of William Utermohlen

When he learned in 1995 that he had Alzheimer's disease, William Utermohlen, an American artist in London, began painting himself to understand his disorder.  His self portraits are being exhibited at the New York Academy of Medicine in Manhattan, by the Alzheimer's Association.  The paintings starkly reveal Utermohlen's descent into dementia, as his world began to tilt, perspectives flattened and details melted away.  His wife and doctors said he seemed aware at times that technical flaws had crept into his work, but he could not figure out how to correct them.  Professors claimed that his spatial sense kept slipping, and that he was aware of it.  A psychoanalyst wrote that the paintings depicted sadness, anxiety, resignation, and feelings of feebleness and shame.  Dr. Bruce Miller, a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies artistic creativity in people with brain diseases, said some patients could still produce powerful work.  "Alzheimer's affects the right parietal lobe in particular, which is important for visualizing something internally and then putting it onto a canvas," Dr. Miller said.  "The art becomes more abstract, the images are blurrier and vague, more surrealistic.  Sometimes there's use of beautiful, subtle color."  William Utermohlen, 80, is now in a nursing home.  He no longer paints.  His work has been exhibited in several cities, and more shows are planned.  The interest in his paintings as a chronicle of illness is bittersweet, his wife said, because it has outstripped the recognition he received even at the height of his career.  "He's always been an outsider," she said.  "He was never quite in the same time slot with what was going on.  Everybody was doing Abstract Expressionist, and there he was, solemnly drawing the figure.  It's so strange to be known for something you're doing when you're rather ill."

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sulking Soul

The moment that you realize
that your bones are made of the same dust
as the planets,
your lungs are breathing the same air
as the migrating butterflies,
and your blood is pumping because
of the love and care of thousands;

is when you realize
that you are not as broken
as you think you are.
You are full
of the world.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


"Your life is not an episode of Skins.  Things will never look quite as good as they do in a faded, sun-drenched Polaroid; your days are not an editorial from Lula.  Your life is not a Sofia Coppola movie, or a Chuck Palahniuk novel, or a Charles Bukowski poem.  Grace Coddington isn't your creative director.  Bon Iver and Joy Division don't play softly in the background at appropriate moments.  Your hysterical teenage diary isn't a work of art.  Your room probably isn't Selby material.  Your life isn't a Tumblr screen cap.  Every word that comes out of your mouth will not be beautiful and poignant, infinitely quotable.  Your pain will not be pretty.  Crying till you vomit is always shit.  You cannot romanticize hurt.  Or sadness.  Or loneliness.  You will have homework, and hangovers and bad hair days.  The train being late won't lead to any fateful encounters, it will make you late.  Sometimes your work will suck.  Sometimes you will suck.  Far too often, everything will suck - and not in a Wes Anderson kind of way.  And there is no divine consolation - only the knowledge that we will hopefully experience the full spectrum - and that sometimes, just sometimes, life will feel like a Coppola film."

                                                                                        -Letters From Nowhere 

August Inspiration

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


"Before you know it, it's three am and you're eighty years old and you can't remember what it was like to have twenty year old thoughts or a ten year old heart."