In the Valley of the Shadow: Depicting Dementia; Paintings reflecting a journey through Alzheimer's Disease by Anita Lehman

November 7 – December 9, 2018

My brother-in-law, Michael Yoder, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease at age 58. He was a family practice physician and he retired from that practice. His wife Mary, sister of my husband, resigned her position on a pastoral team. Together they made the journey through a progressive disease that ended with Mike’s death July 30, 2018, one day before his 67th birthday. Mike, Mary, their children and grandchildren, extended family and friends were in varying ways part of this nearly decade long journey.

Mary asked for persons to accompany her as she walked with Mike. I responded to the request by creating this body of work. The original 12 paintings were done in the 1st 5 months of 2015. Ten of those are shown here. At first it seemed frivolous to paint anything other than dark and despairing images. As I worked, I framed questions to help me explore and create something beyond darkness….

“If the notes are muddled and fading, can the song still be found?”

“If we were raised on the grid, how do we find our way when the markers disappear?”

There are images of fractured instruments, hymn fragments, dancing notes, disrupted grids and references to fault lines and memory loss. Many of my questions are imbedded in the final compositions.

The remaining 10 paintings were begun in late 2015, added to and subtracted from until summer 2018. These works are my visual reflections on the expressive lines drawn by Mike. At this stage of the disease, he was struggling for words. An artist friend engaged Mike in this work for many months. I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to Mike’s mark making and value the connection I felt to him in a world beyond words.

In the weeks before Mike’s death, I found a canvas left unfinished for many months. I had begun drawing lines and shapes in response to what Mike had drawn but came to no conclusion. I returned to the canvas after learning that Mike could still play drums though playing the violin or leading songs were no longer possible. I added drums and notes but didn’t finish the composition. Looking at this unfinished work I realized it needed to stay as it is. The title is “The drums no longer sing”

- Anita Lehman, artist

This display is funded in part through a grant from the YW Legacy Fund at the Greater Salina Community Foundation and sponsored by Presbyterian Manors of Salina and Dignity Home Care.


Paintings Reflecting a Journey Through Alzheimer's Disease article

Shifting Fault Lines , Anita Lehman

Shifting Fault Lines, Anita Lehman


Lunch & Learn: Panel discusses art & dementia - FREE Lunch with RSVP to - November 14 @ noon

First Friday Closing Reception with Anita Lehman December 7, 2018, 5-7 p.m. 

dignity home care.png