IMAG/in/ING: Brain Imaging, Rose Adams, 2010


 By Dorothy Lander & John Graham-Pole

IMAG/in/ING: Brain Imaging. An exhibit by Rose Adams

 For Mind Matters, May 2010

Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, Canning, Nova Scotia, Canada


On May 22, 2010, we attended an all-day workshop, “Women, Creativity, and Mental Health,” one of the month-long Mind Matters series of workshops celebrating art and the human mind, at Ross Creek Centre for the Arts in Canning, Nova Scotia ( Other activities during the month included visual arts workshops for autistic youth with Jacqueline Steudler, Viewfinders Screening of short films, journaling workshops for schools with poet and memoirist Anna Quon, and Seniors Moments (positive aging through art with writer and culinary artist Catherine Wiebe). Rose Adams’s mixed-media exhibit and artist presentation, IMAG/in/ING: Brain Imaging — the focus of our review — was on display throughout the month in the Ross Creek Gallery (see Figure 1, our workshop group).


Figure 1: Art Gallery, Ross Creek Centre for the Arts; Rose Adams pointing to her painting of before and after brain stimulation in a person with dementia

During our day-long workshop, several artists-in-residence made interactive presentations to illustrate the workings of the mind and brain through the medium of their individual art forms — creative writing, film making, bread baking, felting, and spoken word performance, in addition to visual art. The importance of having our stories of struggle “heard” and “listened to” was a common thread in these presentations, which is not normally explicit in visual art exhibits in the absence of the artist. Melissa Farr introduced us to felting, and showed how felting had helped her in her struggles with post-partum depression. Ariella Pahlke illustrated her work with three women with early-stage Alzheimer’s, learning to express themselves through filmmaking.  Poet and playwright Laura Burke, supported by actor Margaret Smith, and using Rose Adams’ IMAG/in/ING: Brain Images as her backdrop, presented a spoken word performance of Laura’s struggles and triumphs of living with and recovering from schizophrenia as a college student (see

The poet and memoirist, Anna Quon, used the insights from her own schizoaffective illness to facilitate our writing workshop. She guided us in free writing our way through a life struggle, leading off with a subject of our own choosing: “My Life with [fill in the blank].” Dorothy wrote on “My Life with Shyness,”  while Dorothy’s stepdaughter, Cathy, now in her 50s, wrote on her life in a group home for the cognitively disabled, and her particular struggles as the “high-functioning” one among four women residents.  Catherine Wiebe, author of the novel Second Rising, introduced us to bread baking, including zwiebak in the tradition of her Mennonite grandmothers, as a way of kneading our own experiences of birthing, memory making and memory loss as they intertwine with food making (see YouTube link:

Figure 2: Catherine Wiebe, Cathy and John preparing zwiebak for the “second rising”

Central to this day-long workshop, focused as it was on artists in many genres who have had personal experience of mental health issues, was Rose Adams’ mixed-media exhibit, IMAG/in/ING: Brain Imaging, along with her “artist talk,” the last artist-led presentation of the day (see Figure 1). Rose is a Canadian painter, photographer and collagist ( Ross Creek Centre for the Arts had asked her to include, together with her latest work, the largest piece from her 2007 Mind Works exhibit, which consists of 65 woodcuts of the brain superimposed with images representing the progressive symptoms of dementia. We have chosen to review Rose Adams’s exhibit as a framework for illuminating and celebrating the imaginative brain that we witnessed and experienced throughout this workshop.

In her presentation, Rose entertained us with the back story of her creative scholarship — technical, scientific, and personal experience — to accomplish these large-scale paintings and collages, which delve deep into the mystery and reality of how our brains work. We learned how this exhibit builds upon a body of work, — Nature Morte (1992); Fundy Suite (1997); AVES (2002); Mind Works (2007) — which collectively explores how art and science intersect. She uses brain imaging, she told us, “as a symbol for honouring our abilities to acknowledge a past, memorialize others, and plan for a future.”  Of compelling interest was her own experience of brain imag/in/ing, which she described through highlighting the autobiographical materials embedded in her work.

We have often used critically reflexive dialogue as our methodology for gathering and disseminating our arts-based research (see Lander & Graham-Pole, 2008/2009), drawing on Anne Cunliffe’s (1999) embodied approach:   

This moment of being struck may cause us to question our ways of acting and responding and open us to possibilities and new ways of talking and acting. … We may be making new connections between tacit knowing and explicit knowledge and constructing our sense of situations in ways not visible to us previously. (p. 9, our italics)

So we wondered what would happen if we engaged in a dialogue based on our own “struck bys,” and at once recognized its application to this Exhibition Review. We take up the etymology of “reflex” and the “striking” gestures of reflexivity that are part of our everyday language when we say, “It strikes me that …” “I was struck by …” What struck us, we asked ourselves, about the brain IMAG/in/ING in Rose’s exhibit and in her talk? And what struck us about the interconnections between art and the brain manifested in the other workshop activities focused on the mind, particularly on women’s mental health?


A Critically Reflexive Dialogue

Dorothy: It struck me that Rose, in speaking to the process of making her Brain IMAG/in/ING art work, was showing us her own imaginative brain at work, and thus becoming part and parcel of the installation. She began her artist talk by reminding us that she was not talking about the brain or mental health in terms of “them and us” — she disclosed that for 2 years, overcome with her own life struggles, she was utterly unproductive. The art came off the wall and into our hearts and minds as she told us that her mother was now in the early- to mid-stages of dementia. She pointed to the relevant 65 wood block prints of the brain, superimposed with exemplars depicting the progressive symptoms of patients with dementia.[1] “This is the first time my mother has not and will not see one of my exhibits when it first opens.” “My mother always sends me a Valentine but this year she forgot.” I was at once transported to my own experience, and the blessing that my mother continued to send me Valentine cards every year, including her 91st year, in which she died one month after sending it.  In their different ways, all the artists presenting during the workshop could have layered this exhibit with their own “show and tell,” enacting the imaginative brain in the face of their mental health struggles.


Figure 3: Alzheimer’s Disease symptom 9/65 entitled WITHDRAWING INTEREST, from 60 Day Free Trial

John: Rose also gave us a glimpse of her artful understanding of symptoms in everyday practice. Even though her mother plays bridge once a week and recently passed her driving test, Rose recognizes that her mother’s memory loss ebbs and flows. “No way will I drive with my mum!” she commented. Very much theory into practice.

Dorothy:  I hadn’t heard of “The Lion’s Face” (see Figure 4) before Rose pointed to this woodcut, noting that sometimes her mother’s face takes on this cast.

John: There’s a medical term for any facial appearance that may be diagnostically linked to a specific disease – it’s called facies.

Dorothy:  Well, a few days after the workshop, I read an online item from UK newspaper, The Guardian, about an opera about Alzheimer’s called The Lion’s Face, for which English poet Glyn Maxwell wrote the libretto. I was struck by how true this opera was to the images in Rose’s work. Glyn Maxwell writes: “The more I learned [from scientists and researchers, x-rays and brain scans, care-givers, psychologists, music and drama therapists], the better the poems became” (Maxwell, 2010, p. 1). “First symptoms had nothing to do with memory; she remembered sitting down and being unable to stand up, because she felt she and the chair were the same thing” (p. 2). Perhaps Rose would say that the more she learned, the better her brain art became.

Figure 4: Alzheimer’s Disease symptom 25/65 entitled THE LION’S FACE:  JOHN MURDOCH DESCRIBES, from 60 Day Free Trial 

 John: Do you remember what Cathy [Dorothy’s step-daughter] told you she was most “struck by” in Rose’s exhibit? It wasn’t the 65 woodcuts from 2007, or Rose’s recent more colourful pieces, but rather the grey/black Ashes of a brain with Alzheimer’s Disease, which is based on an image from a NASA website (see Figure 5a, 5b).


Figure 5a:  ASHES, ASHES, WE ALL FALL DOWN, mixed media, acrylic, and ashes on canvas, 56 1/4” (w)  x 78 3/4” (h)  or 143 cm x 200 cm; NOTE:  ASHES FALLING ON BOTTOM PART OF CANVAS


Figure 5b: Rose Adams in front of  ASHES ASHES

Dorothy: Yes. Cathy told me that this is the first workshop she has ever attended in which the participants were not all from “special education,” and she hasn’t spent much time in art galleries either. Rose had called on her writing group to collect ashes for this installation from different sources of burnt wood to create diverse shades of gray and black to map out the brain. I suspect that the creative materials for this painting, particularly the ashes scattered on the floor below it, as if spilling out of the brain to remind us we all must die, challenged Cathy’s notions of what art and art materials are supposed to be. As you know, Cathy is quite the craftsperson herself — always a crochet hook or knitting needles in hand when she visits us — so for her, arts and crafts materials are something that you get from a store.

John: Cathy cannot always express the deep loss she still feels since the death of her father, your beloved Patrick. You’ve told me that Patrick was the one constant in her life, even as Community Services was shifting her from one family or group home situation to another throughout her adult life. Perhaps it was this sombre piece, among all of Rose’s work, with all its dark shadings, and the falling ashes metaphor of death, that spoke to Cathy, even for her, about her grief and her fears about death and dying. And Rose’s story of the impetus for this work made this connection between ashes and losing a loved one all the more poignant. It came from her sitting in her bedroom looking at the ashes of her 16-year old German shepherd who died last November, reminding her that we all must die.

Dorothy: This is the mystery of “good” art: we cannot pin down in a definitive way what it is that speaks to us. Although it is often not a requirement to put autobiography through the university research ethics process, I wanted to make sure Cathy was comfortable with our interpretation of her “struck by” on sensitive matters, knowing that these could appear in print, complete with a picture of her baking bread. She was intrigued at the idea that her response to Rose’s art and even her picture might appear in an academic journal. She readily gave her consent and then confirmed and expanded our thoughts. She hadn’t picked up that this was an Alzheimer’s brain or even that it was a brain. She was completely focused on the ashes; she went right back to 2006 and the donor memorial service for her father and many others who had gifted their bodies to Dalhousie University’s Department of Anatomy. Cathy had attended the service and the burial of her father’s ashes in the communal garden 18 months after his death. So the workshop and this review gave us our teachable moment in 2010. Cathy asked me why she did not get any of her father’s ashes, perhaps thinking that if Rose could keep her German Shepherd’s ashes close by in her bedroom, why didn’t she have her Dad’s? I have written in the context of teaching death and dying to health care professionals (Lander & Graham-Pole, 2008), how I had the choice of keeping Patrick’s ashes for our family or burying them in Dalhousie’s memorial garden. I chose the garden because it was such a source of pride and comfort for Patrick in his dying days that his body would be useful and educational. Now I had the perfect opportunity to talk to Cathy about this choice while Rose’s artful study of brain anatomy was fresh in our memory. And I got to reflect on another mystery. I have never heard a convincing explanation for why the Department of Anatomy will not accept bodies of persons with dementia. Patrick was lucid to the last day of his life — another blessing.

But we haven’t got to what you were struck by. I’m guessing it was something to do with the marriage of art and science in Rose’s work, which has been such a part of your own career (see Graham-Pole, 2001, 2007).  

John:  Before I speak about what struck me especially in her work, I want to mention an instance when I was moved by another work of art. Laura Burke’s spoken word performance of her struggles with emerging schizophrenia had my full attention. I’m sure staging this performance on the bare hardwood, surrounded by Rose’s sumptuous pictures of the brain, analogous to the blue butterfly, the blue hydrangea, and the torch ginger, made it that much more poignant.

Laura of course played herself, as well as writing this one-act play, while her friend and fellow actor Margaret Smith took on the various roles of Laura’s friend, sister, doctor, and nurse. The moment that Margaret captured superbly, and that stays with me, was a nonverbal one. Late in the performance, after Laura had dramatized her repeated encounters with denial or disregard of her worsening symptoms by family and professional caregivers, Margaret, playing a psychiatric nurse, got down on her knees and leaned into Laura as she lay supine on floor, in a manner that mutely expressed unconditional care and regard.

Dorothy: The performing arts are perfectly suited to showing how the art of listening and accepting mental illness, free of any stigma, might affect the workings of the brain. The visual arts cannot do this in such an immediate way, but as spectators, we inevitably layer on our own interpretations. There are no explicit gestures of care and love of the suffering person in Rose’s paintings, but her blue hydrangea, leaning in empathy over and towards its corresponding human brain image, spoke to me of the possibilities of drawing on the natural world and natural friendship to help forge healing brain connections (see Figure 6).   


Figure 6: Hydrangea and Sagittal Section, 23 1/2” (w) x 35”(h) unframed size, mixed media on mylar backed with Stonehenge

 John: That segues into my own “struck by” in Rose’s exhibit. We have drawn on Jonah Lehrer’s (2007) writing in Proust was a Neuroscientist (2007), including reference to Rose’s work, to examine his proposition that art often precedes science in our understanding the core working of the human brain (Graham-Pole & Lander, 2009). We both agree when he says that “the one reality science cannot reduce is the only reality we will ever know. This is why we need art” (Lehrer, p. xii); and also that art “teaches us to live with mystery” (p. 196). But Rose’s work challenges the hierarchy implied in “art often precedes science.” One of her large pieces in this exhibit, “My Procedural, Semantic and Episodic Memories,” stressed for me that there is no “first or second” or “before and after” in the interweaving of science and art in the lived experience of the healing brain. For this piece, Rose used Oil of Wintergreen (long used by Native North American people as a healing balm) to attach photocopies, then painted over the whole in oil. The canvas is linen, because Rose considers it close to the tone of a formaldehyde-fixed anatomical specimen.

Figure 7: MY SEMANTIC, PROCEDURAL AND EPISODIC MEMORIES, 2010, oil of wintergreen transfers, and oil on linen, 59”(w) x 78 3/4”(h)  or 150 cm x 200 cm

We were both struck by how Rose placed events in her life history into their particular “processing” parts of the brain, depending on whether they were procedural, semantic, or episodic. She illustrated this by showing us images of her learning to ride a bicycle and of dissecting a frog in Grade 6 biology class, which are examples of procedural memories. Her semantic (categorizing and meaning-making) memories were illustrated by images such as jigsaw puzzles and her grammar book, Using Our Language. The images/stories of breaking her brother’s guitar and of wearing that hated green coat she offered as episodic memories.

Dorothy: I love both collage and life history, so I could see myself playing with this in my own reflective practice, or with a group doing life history research. Rose told us that she audited a neuroanatomy class with Dalhousie medical students, so that she could better understand this particular science. I have to think these students would have a better grasp of our brain’s complexity if they could use art to “position” images of their own life history onto various anatomical brain sections. You asked Rose about the images that she chose to put in the central section of the brain. What was it struck you about that?

John: I asked her that because these images straddled her representation of the corpus callosum, which is the central bundle of neural axons that facilitates communication between our two brain hemispheres. There has been quite a bit of dispute in the medical literature about differences between men and women in the corpus callosum’s size and morphology, which may be associated with behavioural and cognitive differences between our sexes. Rose told us that the images she had placed in this central area were those of most significance to her. We see her paint brushes here, and things to do with communication, like her cell phone — and that green coat that she thought was so ugly isn’t far off centre either (see Figure 8).  


 Figure 8: Detail from My Semantic, Procedural, and Episodic Memories, 2010


Dorothy: I just had a flash about this marriage of art and science. I’m thinking of those pre-operative and post-operative brain images of a person with Alzheimer’s, framed by a monochrome butterfly and a blue butterfly (see Figure 9), one of Rose’s four mixed media drawings depicting treatment and repair of the brain through deep-brain stimulation.  Dr. Ivar Mendez, head of neurosurgery in the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre at Dalhousie University had invited Rose to create a work of art to illustrate his work with the brain. Rose framed these images with ornate gold gilt to celebrate “the brain as icon,” and to signal the faith that people are investing in medical technology. My flash took me to that moment that has stayed with you from the spoken word performance. I imagined Margaret’s nurse character as a blue butterfly hovering over Laura, her whole body fluttering in compassion. I can envision this as the lasting effect of “stimulating” each other’s “deep brains,” using not a precise and immediate neurosurgical technology, but a lifetime’s offering of the milk of human kindness.


Figure 9: Pre and Post Operative Life, 2010, 38”(w) x 50”(h) unframed size; gold frame, mixed media on mylar backed with Stonehenge[2]  

 John: Ah, preventive medicine at its best! Which takes me to evolutionary anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake’s Homo Aestheticus (1992), and her ideas of art as “the desire to make something special” (p. 60) for someone. It strikes me that Rose’s exhibit is borne of her desire to make the suffering brain special and valued — something beautiful. Remember someone in our workshop asking Rose if people with Alzheimer’s were among those who came to her exhibits. She said that more caregivers than cared-for saw them, and that these viewers often took something away that helped them do their care work.

We have used the phrase, “care pARTners”, to convey that art and creative expression is relational, and forged in the gift economy. Dissanayake (1992) insists that both art-making and “human social existence are based on sharing and reciprocity, giving and receiving” (p. 107). Dissanayake collapses visual display and gift-giving, and Rose’s visual display of the brain surely exemplifies Dissanayake’s point that “when gifts are given, offerings made, wealth displayed, they are made special, arranged to show their sumptuousness and beauty” (p. 107).  And Rose’s verbal presentation of her work qualifies as “self-presentation where one’s own appearance is a kind of ‘gift’” (p. 108).

Dorothy: Do you have any impressions about our own creative expression in writing this exhibition review, that might be in keeping with Dissanayake’s research showing we are biologically endowed for art and art-making?

John: Well, I think our working the edges of the academic conventions of writing, as we are here, is borne of our desire to make things accessible, even entertaining, for the reader. So I guess that is making things special — a kind of gift. But of course our dialogue is more artifice than spontaneous creative expression. What about you? What are you going to take away from writing this review?

Dorothy: I feel strongly that our review has given me a greater appreciation of the workings of the brain, and the power of art — in all its different art forms that were part of our day — to seep into our consciousness as we go about our daily practice of living. Although we haven’t talked about Rose’s large-scale painting of the 26 metaphors of the brain[1], with its images of the book, computer, mushrooms, malleable plastic, tape recorder, and the Medusa, I think I have found my working metaphor for the brain in another of her paintings — the compassionate blue hydrangea (see Figure 10). This must have seeped into my consciousness, but only when we did our struck bys did this move from tacit to explicit.       

And after my flash about the blue butterfly, I think I will hold onto this image as the metaphor for the everyday practice of deep brain nourishing through care and compassion. The blue butterfly made another appearance during the artist panel presentation at the end of the workshop day. Rose was delighted to spot her same blue butterfly on the binding of Catherine Wiebe’s fictional memoir, Second Rising (2009), which also finds beauty in memory loss. In Catherine’s case, it’s in the company of the very old grandmother and the very young granddaughter as they call up in memory the perfect loaf. Remember the etymology of the words company and companion is “with bread”. Catherine articulates what I was sensing as the re-pairing power of care that we need to invest our faith in, even as we put our faith in science and technology’s deep brain stimulation:

We are very good at forgetting, and food’s presence — as both symbol and sustenance — within our intimate rituals and traditions makes it into something that nourishes our memories as well as our bodies. (Wiebe, 2009, p. 188).

An interview with Catherine as well as a reading from her memoir are featured on her publisher’s website Blue Butterfly Books (

[1]TWENTY-SIX METAPHORS OF THE BRAIN AND ONE IMAGE FROM THE HEART, acrylic transfers and acrylic on canvas with wire and plastic form, 59”(w) x 78 3/4”(h)  or 150 cm x 200 cm  Detail of Medusa


Figure 10: Detail Hydrangea from Sagittal Section and Hydrangea

Closing Reflections

The nature of dialogue itself shapes our first (dis)closure. Mikhail Bakhtin’s (1986) observations about speech communication that “every utterance is filled with echoes and reverberations of the sentences to which it is related” (p. 91) could apply to the “visual utterances” in Rose Adams’s exhibit and to the many other modes of creative expression that filled our workshop day.  Replacing “utterance” with “creative expression,” we witnessed all sorts of creative expression as a response to preceding creative expressions, embedded in our individual and collective life histories. “Each [creative expression] refutes, affirms, supplements, and relies upon the others, presupposes them to be known, and somehow takes them into account” (p. 91).

IMAG/in/ING is filled with echoes and reverberations from Rose Adams’s current lived experience of her mother’s dementia, as well as her earlier work on the experience of loss among patients with dementia, and its relationship to her own motivation:I use crows and ravens as images of loss — like archetypes. My painting, The Present Moment, came from a time when I was working on a crow image, and I saw that the amaryllis in my studio had just come into full bloom. So I took up a fresh canvas and depicted the crow and the amaryllis side-by-side. I realized I was recalling the advice of one of my patients with early Alzheimer’s: “Always try to live in the present.’ I knew these people have no past or future — no story — so their only resource is to try to enjoy the present moment.” (as cited in Graham-Pole & Lander, 2008). This flower metaphor reappears in her image of a sagittal section of the brain in immediate juxtaposition to a hydrangea; the resemblance between the two is arresting. In another photographic image, the penultimate one in the 60 Day Free Trial series, a single rose is laid upon a relief of the brain surface, just as it might be at a burial. And our response here to IMAG/in/ING: Brain Imaging echoes and reverberates with our earlier responses to Rose’s work, as well as with our own preceding creative expressions on the themes of care pARTners and loss, which “somehow take account of” our separate and combined life histories.

Our disclosures on “mind matters” that emerged from witnessing Rose Adams’s exhibit in the context of the workshop day on Women, Creativity and Mental Health, can also be framed as a response to preceding utterances/expressions of a more factual nature, or what has become known as evidence-based research (see Lander & Graham-Pole, 2007, on evidence- or art-based research). Sixteen years ago, the Canadian Study of Health and Aging (1994) calculated that, if prevalence estimates remain constant, 592,000 Canadians will be suffering from dementia by 2021. This is more than twice that of predicted population growth. But these statistics do nothing to help us experience the subjective and emotional impact on individuals and their loved ones of losing their memory, of literally “losing their mind.” Rose Adams’s anatomy studies at Dalhousie University, and her observations of surgical repair through deep-brain stimulation by neurosurgeon Dr. Ivar Mendez, benefitting patients with neurological and affective disorders, has given her access to “preceding utterances” that echo forward to her artistic responses that capture what science cannot express. The four large mixed-media images in her IMAG/in/ING exhibit together represent a powerful exemplar of the subjective effects on patients of these diseases and their treatment. Her more recent direct personal acquaintance with the impact of Alzheimer’s Disease on her relationship with her mother, factors into how she responds to her own work, 60 Day Free Trial from 2007 — she responds viscerally to her own representations of symptoms that she now recognizes in her mother.

The neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio (2003), has expanded on the work (preceding utterances) of the 17th century protobiologist, Benito Spinoza, to address the hard question of how our brains, and brain functioning, relate to what we call our minds. He showed that our bodies and minds experience parallel “affects,” the essential ingredients of which are pleasure and pain, and that the outward bodily display of bodily emotions in human relationships precede their explicit inward recognition of feelings, which are the bedrock of our minds. Damasio’s research has helped bring the distinctions between our brains and our minds out of the realm of philosophy into that of science. Rose Adams’s research as an artist, goes a long way to confirm Jonah Lehrer’s claim (2007) that art and science are inextricably intertwined: “By expressing our actual experience, the artist reminds us that our science is incomplete, that no map of matter will ever explain the immateriality of our consciousness” (p. xii).  


Canadian study of health and aging: study methods and prevalence of dementia. (1994). Canadian Medical Association Journal, 150(6), 899–913.

Cunliffe, Ann (1999). Critical pedagogy: Dialogical practice in management learning. In C. H. J. Gilson, I Grugulis, & H. Willmott (Eds.), Proceedings of Critical Management Studies Conference, Manchester School of Management, Management Education and Learning Stream. Available from:

Damasio, Antonio (2003). Looking for Spinoza: Joy, sorrow, and the feeling brain. Orlando, FL: Harcourt.

Dissanayake, Ellen (1992). Homo aestheticus: Where art comes from and why. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Graham-Pole, John (2001). The marriage of art and science in health care. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 74(1), 21-27.

Graham-Pole, John (2007). Applications of art to health. In J. Sonke-Henderson, R. Brandman, & J. Graham-Pole (Eds.), Whole person healthcare, Volume 3: The arts & health (pp. 1-21, I. Serlin, General Ed.). Westport, CT: Praeger.

Graham-Pole, John & Lander, Dorothy (2009). Metaphors of loss: An appreciative inquiry. Arts & Health, 1(1), 74-88.

Lander, Dorothy, & Graham-Pole, John (2008). Love letters to the dead: Immortal gifts for the lifelong learner. In C. Moreman (Ed.) Teaching death and dying (pp. 227-247). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lander, Dorothy, & Graham-Pole, John. (2008-2009). Love letters to the dead: Resurrecting an epistolary art. Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, 58(4), 313-333.

Lander, Dorothy, & Graham-Pole, John.(2007). The appreciative pedagogy of palliative care: Arts-based or evidence-based? International Journal for Learning Through the Arts: A Research Journal on Arts Integration in Communities, 2(1), Article 15. (Theme Issue on Health Care) [On-line]. Available from:

Lehrer, Jonathan (2007). Proust was a neuroscientist. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Maxwell, Glyn (2010). Maps of the mind: The Lion’s Face. The Guardian, May 25, 2010. Available from:

Bakhtin, Mikhail (1986). Speech genres & other late essays (C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Eds., V. W. McGee, Trans.). Austin: University of Texas Press.

Wiebe, Catherine (2009). Second rising. Toronto: Blue Butterfly Books.

[1] 60 DAY FREE TRIAL is a series of 65 manipulated relief prints based upon access to a 60-day free trial period of SymptomGuide™, a web-enabled tool developed by Dr. Kenneth Rockwood to depict the realities of life that these patients and their families confront. Dr. Kenneth Rockwood is Kathryn Allen Weldon Professor of Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Dalhousie University, and staff physician in the Department of Medicine at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, Halifax, Canada. SymptomGuide™ found on the website ,is designed for use by caregivers to understand, record and monitor the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease on an individualized level, over time.  In 2004-2005, Rose Adams was artist-in-residence at the QEII Health Sciences Memory Disability Clinic in Halifax, under the direction of Dr. Rockwood. She was able to interact as an artist with patients and both their family and their professional caregivers.

[2] from DEEP BRAIN STIMULATION  2010 series of four, with thanks for Dr. Ivar Mendez, Head, Division of Neurosurgery at the Brain Repair Centre, QEII Hospital, Halifax and Paula Chiasson, Coordinator, Division of Neurosurgery, Centre for Clinical Research, QEII Hospital, Halifax


acrylic transfers and acrylic on canvas with wire and plastic form

59”(w) x 78 3/4”(h)  or 150 cm x 200 cm  Detail of Medusa


~ by artpoped on June 6, 2010.

One Response to “IMAG/in/ING: Brain Imaging, Rose Adams, 2010”

  1. This is a first for me; to read a review about my work and to reply on a blog. I have never done it and I am “struck by” how different a sensation it is for me than writing a response in the form of an essay and submitting it to Dorothy and John. Somehow it feels looser, less formal, and maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t know. I will have to think about that some more. I guess there is something about the false impermanence of writing on a blog that makes ideas seem more fluid and immediate.
    But I do have several things to say about the review by way of a response. First, I am immensely grateful (full of gratitude) to Dorothy and John for considering my work with such thoughtfulness, care and where I feel that both my words and my art have been “heard”. Throughout their review, they speak of caring and art as a kind of gift.
    The review is definitely a gift for me and shows how art can be extended by engaging many other senses. I feel that the review is truly a gift, and I do not say this gratuitously. (how strange that gratuitous comes from the root of grateful when they mean so much the opposite of each other). It is rare for an artist to have such genuine consideration given to one’s work and I am grateful.
    It is also very important to me that my work was presented in the context of an entire day of workshop. Because of an event that I needed to attend with my children, I was unable to attend the whole day’s workshop and I certainly felt a sense of loss arriving half way through the day. The importance of all of the participants sharing stories of loss and “mind matters” was paramount to the intimacy of the day and I was profoundly sorry to have missed much of the day.
    But a theme which appeared again and again during the time I was there and in the text above is that of dialogue- the dialogue between Dorothy and John in the format of the review, and the dialogue present between my paintings/drawings/prints and the art forms of baking, felting, writing, and performance. It seemed to me that on that particular day of the workshop (May 22nd) all of the art forms were in dialogue, and they expressed the words, feelings, smells, and colours of all kinds of memories processed by the brain. While celebrating these memories, there was an undercurrent of honouring the losses caused by various forms of mental illness and distress. It may seem odd for me not to mention the particular people who were in dialogue but it is our art forms that spoke for us on that day. The art embodied our stories.
    One of the most important thing that I have taken from the entire experience of the day is the expression “struck by”. This has now become part of my practice as a teacher. Instead of asking people “What was significant here?” or “What have you learned?” I’ve been asking participants and students, “What were you struck by in this piece of art or in what you heard?” and I am enjoying the kind of responses that I’m receiving. Instead of being more reflective or thoughtful, it is allowing students to actually pinpoint the feeling and moment of being “struck”. I like it. From there, when we identify their visceral feelings, we explore their ideas and I think I am receiving deeper responses as a result of this new phrasing of a reflection process.
    In being able to read such a thorough response to my work, I am also again struck by how, as an artist, I can never tell what is going to be important or meaningful to another person. I am astounded at the interpretation of my hydrangea as leaning over in empathy to the brain slice depicted in the image, but I will never lose this now as an interpretation that helps enrich my understanding of how we connect with images. Most importantly, however, is how this interpretation of empathy has led me to think much about the comment that John made that “there are no explicit gestures of care…in Rose’s painting.” This hit me in my solar plexus as very true and that this is an area in which I need to develop my work.
    It just happens that I have been invited to speak at a conference for Caregivers of Alzheimer patients in a few weeks. The organizers and I had tossed around the idea of doing something participatory at the conference and I think that some way to collect explicit gestures of caring might be the way to go, as a way to honour what might be the simplest of gestures in the mind of the caregiver, but which might be of tremendous importance to the person with Alzheimer’s. I am excited about this idea and I see it as a further extension of how reflecting upon an exhibition in this manner can create further waves of dialogue.
    Another coincidence (is there such a thing or does it just mean a logical furtherance of the outcomes of the dialogue?) is Dorothy or John’s assertion that art teaches us to live with mystery. When I was interviewed by Elissa Barnard from The Mail Star newspaper about this exhibition, she asked me if I was intrigued by the mystery of the brain. I thought that was a fascinating question from an arts reporter. I was so delighted that she was willing to envelope the idea of mystery, which is perhaps at the heart of all creative expression. If we knew what it would look like, or if we didn’t have revelations through the process of making, then why bother? It is this mystery that is somewhat revealed in the making, feeling, and thinking about art, that keeps us making the objects, pictures, poems, etc.
    Finally, the workshop day was so profoundly meaningful for me by the surprise presence of one of my high school teachers. I haven’t seen her in years but when she saw that I was giving a talk, she drove up to the Ross Creek Centre to hear what I had to say. Since I graduated from high school n 1976 and it is now 2010, the importance of her presence at my talk also underlined for me again the importance of memory to honour not only our present but our past. While many therapeutic messages involve living “for the moment” or “in the present”, I am a bit suspect of an appreciation of the present moment or sensation without the ability to see how our past interacts with our present. The “living in the present moment” idea seems a bit lonely, or selfish to me. I know the sentiment is meant well, with the idea of living fulling in each moment, but these moments are relational, with everyone we have ever met, and with everything we have ever experienced. Living with the past and the present is living in dialogue, and is relational. If I had alzhiemer’s, I would never have been so emotionally touched by the presence at my talk of my high school teacher. I can see poignantly, how sad it would be to live without this knowledge of my past.
    One of the most profound learnings I had from this exhibition was in dialogue with the high school students to whom I spoke when I was installing the work. When viewing my 65 brain prints a student asked which prints were most important to me. Only then did I realize that it was the prints that were directly related to my mother.
    This student went on to ask if I would still do work about the brain after my mother dies? I could only answer, “I don’t know.” I can only try to hold on to my past and my present and embrace the mystery of the future.


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