In her series of works ‘The Dementia Darnings’, Jenni Dutton has taken images of her mother who had dementia and reproduced them as large scale portraits in wool and thread. The portraits reflect the ageing process as well as the erosive effect of the illness on the individual. The threads are sewn through fine netting stretched over canvas. The process of developing the image is slow, the intensity of each piece mirrors the nature of the relationship between mother and daughter.
“I began to make the series known as The Dementia Darnings in 2011 whilst I was a carer for my mum who was developing dementia. As I developed some understanding of the illness and how it manifested itself, we explored ways of engaging with the past, often looking at old photo albums. I started to use stitching to ‘draw’ likenesses of family members onto a sculpture of a long dress made from dress netting. She recognised these familiar faces and enjoyed watching me create these simple portraits. Several of the large scale portraits followed as I explored the technique and it’s possibilities, until I started to make likenesses of my mum using current photos.
I often started the pieces in my studio and would then transport the canvases to her house where she would enjoy watching the pieces develop. She eventually went into a care home. Making this work helped me to to deal with her illness and her inevitable decline. She died peacefully in September 2015″