Woman Uses Her Art to Express Her Experiences with Alzheimer’s Disease

For many people, starting to see the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis are effectively the end of their career and of life as they once knew it. Having Alzheimer’s disease is not only debilitating, but it can be depressing too, leading people to give up on some of the hopes and dreams they once held dear.

But not everyone will succumb so easily to this terrible disease. One artist, Ragnhild Gatu from Sweden, is determined to continue her art regardless of her diagnosis. Not only that, she’s begun incorporating the disease into her work, creating papier-mâché masterpieces that depict how Alzheimer’s disease makes her feel and the experiences she’s had with it. She’s also made art about her experiences with being hospitalized after a stroke.

Gatu incorporates what she calls “a humorous seriousness or a serious humor” into each of her pieces, bringing lightheartedness to weighty subject matter and gravity to more lively scenes. Using this technique, she shows the multifaceted emotional experiences of dementia.

“When people experience the humor in my stuff, it feels great that I have been able to translate my feelings so that people experience what I have felt. It gives me a lot,” says Gatu in a 2022 article about an art exhibit she did.

Some people may think Gatu’s work is dark or depressing, but others will find the humor and lightness in it. The pieces may also be incredibly eye-opening for people who are not very familiar with this disease or those who wonder what it’s like to live with it. It may also bring a sense of camaraderie or a feeling of being understood to other people who suffer from dementia.

My Aunt has Alzheimer’s and uses her art to express her experience
byu/LilCosetteRIP inBeAmazed

Above are just a few of Gatu’s many works of art, as shared by a family member on Reddit.

Everyone’s experience is different, of course, but we hope that people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or who have a loved one with the disease can find a poignant sense of fellowship in an otherwise lonely world. May this art lead to people feeling seen and understood better when they’re no longer able to explain how they feel themselves.

What do you think about Gatu’s works of art? What emotions do they evoke? Do any of them speak to your particular experiences with dementia?

Gatu has a studio in Rättvik, Sweden. She introduces a new “scene” every few weeks on her Facebook page. Thank you, Ragnhild Gatu, for sharing your work with the world!

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