This piece is about neurons in the brain, specifically about explorations about their communication (or lack thereof) as part of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. I have incorporated neurons into my work in the past – two of the Courage Unmasked pieces (both for the 2009 auction) had neurons in the interior of the mask, where the brain would be, indicating the patient’s escape from the claustrophobic world of the radiation treatment environment into a more freeing world of their imagination.
I also decided, one day, that I “needed a spine” (as in needed to find more courage to stretch myself in my work) so I made one:
Now, I wanted to go big. So I started making larger neuron armatures. And I wanted to add movement, so I decided to make a mobile with each section approximately 2 feet in diameter, each touching the other off in a spin – sparking a reaction, sending information.
I knew that once I covered the armatures with flax paper, the pieces would change dramatically. The shiny metal would become matte, neutral paper. So to bring it alive again, I added metallic leaf to some of the ends to catch the light as neurons pushed and touched each other. And I added bound pieces of broken mirror to the interior of each neuron – a reference to the loss of memory and identity that accompanies diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The neurons are suspended with swivel hangers so that they can turn more easily/smoothly when only lightly touched and hang with about a 6″ overlap at the outermost tips so that they bump into each other fairly easily, but don’t lock dendrites.
Now that the five neurons are installed at the Strathmore show, I can see how I could fill the entire room just with neurons (50 or more of them?!), suspended throughout the room at different heights, with narrow pathways so that the visitors touch off movement as they try to navigate the space.