Evening Gallery or Humoring the Goddess? Maybe a Little of Both — William Utermohlen

 

Conversation Pieces, Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago

This is a little bit Sunday Evening Art Gallery post, a little Humoring the Goddess post. You’ll see what I mean.

I am a sucker for those “10 Things You Didn’t Know About …..” Most of them are flops, but every now and then I come across something that is extraordinary.

 

In 1995, U.K.-based American artist William Utermohlen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

1967

 

Before his death, Utermohlen created a heart-wrenching final series of self-portraits over the stages of Alzheimer’s, which lasted roughly five years.

1996

 

The last self-portraits, painted between 1995 and 2001, are unique artistic, medical, and psychological documents. They portray a man doomed yet fighting to preserve his identity and his place in the world in the face of an implacable disease encroaching on his mind and senses. 

1997

 

Alzheimer’s symptoms not only include memory loss or dementia and personality changes but it also affects the part of the brain, which is responsible for visualizing capabilities, so crucial for a painter.

1998

 

With Alzheimer’s progressing, the art becomes visibly more abstract, blurrier and vague, due to the loss of the aforementioned capabilities.

1999

 

The artist’s widow Patricia explains exactly why these images are so powerful:  “In these pictures we see with heart-breaking intensity William’s efforts to explain his altered self, his fears and his sadness.”

2000

 

Apart from portraits, still lives and drawings from the model, Utermohlen’s art can be arranged in six clear thematic cycles: The “Mythological” paintings of 1962-63; the “Cantos” of 1965-1966 inspired by Dante’s Inferno; the “Mummers” cycle of 1969-1970 depicting characters from South Philadelphia’s New Year’s Day parade; the “War” series of 1972 alluding to the Vietnam war; the “Nudes” of 1973-74; and finally the “Conversation Pieces”, the great decorative interiors with figures, of 1989-1991.

William Utermohlen died March 21, 2007. The mere thought that this artist tried to paint his being through the very end of his Alzheimer’s pays tribute to the creative soul in each one of us.

More of William Utermohlen’s story and paintings can be found at http://www.williamutermohlen.org/, Bored Panda, and Chris Boïcos Fine Arts websites.

 

 

10 thoughts on “Evening Gallery or Humoring the Goddess? Maybe a Little of Both — William Utermohlen

  1. Unbelievable. I am so moved by this share. Thank you.
    There is so much pain and loss portrayed in his artistic journey, yet there is also beauty and inspiration in his ability to stay connected, as best he could, to his creative self. 🎨 💖

    Like

  2. Oh, my dear. As a poet doggedly documenting a path which has itself brushed with death — and with a father of my own who himself died of this disease — this hit very close to the heart. I’m so touched. Thank you, even more than most, for this nourishing and uplifting share.

    Like

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