Mothership is a work in progress about my mother's lifelong pursuit for answers to life's big questions and her early onset of dementia.
At the highest level, what separates humans from other animals is the human brain’s quest for meaning, something metaphysical, to explain our existence. Yet, paradoxically, this ability is just another function of the brain. Any malfunction of this organ can remove our most basic cognitive ability. To illustrate this, I photographed my mother’s lifelong interest in the New Age movement in contrast to her early onset of dementia.
The New Age movement, which was popular in the 1970s and 1980s, is an umbrella term for alternative belief systems to that of western religion. Examples include Native American religions, eastern religions, belief in the power of crystals, self-help and self-improvement books and, in my home, belief in UFOs. Long disillusioned with western religion, my mother went looking for answers in different areas from the physical like Jane Fonda’s workout book to the metaphysical like angels. Reinforcing her belief in the supernatural was the fact that she had seen several UFOs throughout her life and even ran a support group for survivors of alien abductions.
In the last 20 years, dementia has slowly infected her life leaving her searching for answers in a different way. Dementia has affected her memory, behavior and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Though depression is a big component of her dementia, the discussion of all things UFO brings a smile to her face. Trips to NASA Space Centers, UFO roadside attractions, and other places of supernatural curiosity are my way of connecting with her again. With these photographs, I try to visually illustrate the state of her brain, the attempts to communicate and the affects dementia has on family. I am also interested in the dichotomy between the right brain, which is responsible for emotion, creativity and intuition, and the left brain which is responsible for logical, analytical and objective thought. Even though the effects of dementia are horrible, there is something magical in being around a person that functions mostly from the right side of the brain. My mother is not confined by social norms or linear patterns of thought. During our trips, I must let go of logic and let intuition guide us in order to be more in tune with my mother. As a result, magical, unexpected events happen that would have never occurred if we followed a well thought out itinerary. And in this, my mother is still teaching me to believe in magic.
Ultimately, my mother’s dementia is her struggle and we are all powerless to stop the deterioration. As times goes on, the inner-space of her brain is becoming increasingly limited, evident in the growing mental tunnel vision I witness every time I visit her. For all her reading and searching for answers to life's big questions, she will eventually succumb to the biological malfunction of her brain.