LMFA is pleased to present an exhibition of collage paintings by New York City based artist Josh Dorman. As novelist Michael Chabon wrote of Dorman’s work, “Each of Josh Dorman’s works, like a dream, is at once a window and a mirror, opening onto a landscape of chimeras and juxtapositions, never before seen yet instantly recognizable, as familiar as the outlines of our own secret reflections.”
The show contains works from Dorman’s 2007 collaboration with the Memory Bridge Foundation as well as a new series of “portraits of dementia.” After seeing Dorman’s fantastical landscape paintings at George Billis Gallery in Los Angeles, Michael Verde, founder of Memory Bridge, commissioned Dorman to travel to a Chicago nursing home to create the six large “portraits” of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
The resulting artworks, on display at LMFA, were recorded in the 2007 documentary film, There Is A Bridge, narrated by poet Robert Pinsky. Dorman’s response to spending a week listening and observing six individuals with Alzheimer’s disease was about interweaving portrait elements with fragments of text and imagery taken directly from the mouths of the subjects. Layered onto antique topographical maps--which conjure geographical memory as well as the wrinkles of brain and skin-- Dorman draws, paints, and collages. The works are a harmonious cacophony, drawing on the full range of human emotion still present in people with Alzheimer’s. From terror, anger and confusion, to blissful and gentle connection, the paintings depict lucid memories, imagined realities, and rhyming poetic streams of consciousness. As Verde has said, Alzheimer’s takes as many forms as there are individuals. The goal was to listen without judgment and to meet the people where they are.
In Dorman’s new body of work, created a decade later, he revisits the dementia portraits and deepens the exploration by creating imaginary individuals. “I’m trying to imagine the interior world of someone with dementia and to speak to the people who care for them,” Dorman said. “The message is that love is listening and an embrace of renewed innocence and an acceptance of a new if unfamiliar reality can balance the anxiety inherent in loss of moorings.”
The new portraits are made up of disjointed collage pieces and drawings, conjuring lost memories and fantasy worlds, while still configuring a whole intact human being. In the words of the artist, “Most of us will be touched by Alzheimer’s and dementia in our lifetimes, and my goal is to make it a little less terrifying. I want to offer a way to see beauty in the darkness and to remember that our humanity never disappears.”