Nine hours to paint a masterpiece

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//img-MSgJJr2R6Z.jpg’, ‘Photo by Amy Towne’, ‘Artist Mark John Hoffman with his “Between Dreams and Memories” piece.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//img-9KfhVWGS42.jpg’, ‘Photo by Amy Towne’, ‘Joe Church working on his painting at the Alzheimer’s Association’s Unforgettable Art fund-raiser last weekend.’);

More than 200 art fans had the opportunity to experience a unique fund-raiser last weekend at Unforgettable Art, the Alzheimer’s Association’s art auction and benefit. This was not your typical cocktails-dinner-and-band event, but one that was inspired by those that have become popular in Chicago and other major metropolitan areas around the country. It is hoped the event will be the first of many.

The Alzheimer’s Association put out a call for artists to participate in the unique challenge of creating an entire painting in just nine hours. The artists could arrive as early as noon on Saturday, and had until 9 that night to complete one painting while guests watched their masterpieces take shape. All artists were given the same sized canvas and array of acrylic paint donated by Liquitex, and had only to supply time and creativity.

Undoubtedly, it was an interesting experience both for the artists and those who may never have seen painting in progress.

Mary Buskohl, the development manager for the Alzheimer’s Association, said the organization had heard about the success of similar events in Chicago and New York, and thought they would give it a try. “It’s a fabulous idea for Rockford…it’s not your typical fund-raiser” The benefit’s location in one of Rockford’s industrial parks was another twist on the usual. The rough, warehouse space of the old Quaker Oats corporation with its open ceiling was chosen to add to the mood of the event: It feels and looks like an artist’s studio.

The number of artists was limited to 50, despite a large response, and were selected through slides of their previous works. The subject matter tended toward the realistic and traditional, with many examples of flowers, animals, landscapes, and still lifes.

Several artists cited personal experience with the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease as the motivation for their participation. Joe Church, a former Art Institute student who currently works at Rockford Art Museum, explained his reason for choosing his subject of an abstract tree. “My grandmother has Alzheimer’s, and this is a tree on the grounds of the nursing home where she lives.”

Mark John Hoffman, another participating artist, was intrigued by the themes suggested of an individual’s experience and perception while suffering Alzheimer’s.

Working from some simple sketches and pen drawings, Hoffman arrived at a depiction of figures and tree branches interlacing and fading into other shapes and objects. The finished piece, titled “Between Dreams and Memory,” concerns the loss of ability to distinguish between reality and the subconscious mind. The finished result was a vivid metaphor for the rambling, confused sense of a mind afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. Hoffman successfully evoked the sense of being lost between memories, dreams, and reality. “Like waking life in general,” he noted, “all three mesh.”

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