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Flux of Consciousness explores world of Alzheimer’s patients

March 13, 2002

What: Flux of Consciousness, an MFA thesis exhibition featuring paintings that explore the artist’s experiences as an occupational therapist who works with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Where: Harry Wood Gallery, Art Building, ASU Main, Tempe. (900 Forest Mall on the west side of campus near the intersection of Forest and Tyler Malls.)

Who: Mary Porterfield, a graduate student at the School of Art in the Herberger College of Fine Arts at ASU.

When: April 8-12, 2002
Opening Reception: 7-9 p.m., April 8.

Hours: Monday-Thursday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Friday: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Cost: Always Free

About the Exhibition: Flux of Consciousness is an MFA thesis exhibition featuring paintings that explore artist Mary Porterfield’s experiences as an occupational therapist working with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Porterfield’s amazingly detailed paintings feature scenes within scenes. Brooding skyscapes, exploding volcanoes and galactic scenes reveal, on closer inspection, repetitive images of people and creatures. Spiders, snakes, fish and rats create a sense of imminent threat. With titles like TrepidationSeized and From Dust to Dust, the paintings convey some of the fear, loss and anonymity facing patients with Alzheimer’s.

Using palette knives, Porterfield varies the surface texture of her oil and acrylic paintings, changing the form of the painting and representing the fluctuation between moments of clarity and ambiguity. Porterfield says that the larger landscapes in her paintings symbolize dementia, while the reality of day-to-day life with Alzheimer’s is portrayed in the fragmented, repetitive details of her paintings.

“Just as dementia may not be noted from afar, the proximity of forms creates an illusion of normality, seen from a distance. However, the illusion becomes fragmented with closer study, representing the altered thought processes of my patients,” Porterfield says. 

“I use visual metaphors, such as animals, to represent the sense of doom and entrapment expressed by many of my patients. My figures and forms are repeated to demonstrate the blurring of time and the monotony of daily routines in institutionalized settings.”

About the Images: 
Seized, 2001, by Mary Porterfield. Oil, acrylic on wood.
Displaced, 2001, by Mary Porterfield. Oil, acrylic on wood.
Raptors, 2001, by Mary Porterfield. Oil, acrylic, charcoal on wood.

The Harry Wood Gallery is one of three galleries on the ASU Tempe campus operated by students, staff and faculty of ASU’s School of Art in The Katherine K. Herberger College of Fine Arts. The Harry Wood Gallery features solo thesis exhibitions and group shows by graduate students pursuing master of fine arts (MFA) degrees and group shows by undergraduate students. 

Media Contact:
Jennifer Pringle