Jennie Dutton, The Dementia Darnings, 2011
“Making my mother the subject and focus of my work, while I was looking after her helped me to deal with her decline into dementia.”
Jenni Dutton was another artist on the panel and her personal life also played a big part in her practice. Jenni lives and works in Somerset and her work ‘Dementia Darnings’ began when she became a carer for her mother who had been diagnosed with Dementia.
Because of the amount of time that had to be dedicated to caring for her mother, Jenni temporarily gave up working in her studio. She told us she was afraid she would resent her mother throughout her decline because that is what had taken her away from her work so she began to work with her mother, using art as a healing tool to help both of them through her mother’s condition.
“As I developed an understanding of the illness and how it manifested itself, we explored ways of engaging with the past often looking at old photo albums.”
Dutton turns the canvases upside down when she begins to work on them, using old photographs and focusing on colours rather than details of the face. It is not until the very end that she turns them around to see what they look like. Dutton often took the pieces that she was working on to her mother’s house so she could see how they were developing.
“She was excited, running her hands over the surface, comparing the emerging piece to the original photograph.”
The large scale works are made with wool and thread and are stretched onto a canvas to hold the shape. The wool thickness is halved for the last 3 portraits in the series as Dutton wanted to convey her extreme frailty. The source photos are taken from different stages in her mother’s life and were chosen by Jenni because of their significance. The material used is to reflect the fragile nature of her mother’s condition and the strength of the relationship bonding both mother and daughter. Like Jordi Roberts work, Dutton has used her mother’s possessions within the work, creating that feeling of nostalgia.
This is an extremely impressive body of work because of the amount of craftsmanship that goes into creating just one piece. Knowing that Dutton worked with her mother during her descent makes this work even more poignant for the viewer. A highly emotional piece of art that I am fortunate to have seen.
Written by Rachel Dunford.
Click here to read what Rachel thought about Jordi Robert’s work.