by Joyce Lee
“We all become creators in the lens of memory,”explained Patricia Moss-Vreeland as she led patients and caregivers through the layers of meanings and nuances in the Penn Memory Center Art of the Mind gallery.
Moss-Vreeland, a Philadelphia artist, was holding the last workshop in her series accompanying her exhibition, “Revelations and Transformations, Layers of Memory,” co-sponsored by the Penn Memory Center. Sunlight through the third-floor glass windows of the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine cast shadows over the participants as Moss-Vreeland explained how each of her art pieces was formed by distinct motifs, colors, patterns, and words.
Moss-Vreeland had two core ideas – “nuggets,” as she called them – that she wanted to share with participants through her workshop: first, how memory is a portal to innate creativity, and second, how memory and experience make us unique. In explaining these ideas, she touched on her time working with a neuropsychologist at the intersection of neuroscience and visual art, and drew on thoughts she had written in her book, “A Place for Memory: Where Art and Science Meet,” which was published in 2013.
In particular reference to dementia, Moss-Vreeland highlighted the parallels in neuroscience and visual art: the metaphors, repetitions, and connections in both. For example, when research on brain plasticity was first being done in the early days of neuroscience research, it was “amazingly exciting” for her as an artist because artists were also involved in “see[ing] infinite variations and [possibilities].” One of her works on display even drew on visual images of the brain as inspiration: it contained a tree-like pattern that resembled the dendrites of a neuron, one of the smallest building blocks of the brain.
After the show-and-tell, Moss-Vreeland invited participants to create their own works of art. Each participant was given an envelope with various materials – papers, words, pieces of cloth – and asked to integrate them while thinking about the themes of memory and identity of the workshop. Participants then went around the room, showed what they had created, and shared their thoughts on the process. In the end, Moss-Vreeland encouraged participants to continue reflecting on memory and identity beyond the boundaries of the workshop.
“I hope for each person to find a place for ongoing reflection, and a place for finding one’s creativity through the lens of memory,” the description of her exhibition read.
Moss-Vreeland is a Philadelphia-based artist whose exhibition, “Revelations and Transformations, Layers of Memory,” was on display in the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine Art of the Mind gallery space in 2017. Her art has been featured in the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and The Norton Museum. She is the author of “A Place for Memory: Where Art and Science Meet,” which was published in 2013. Her website can be found at http://www.patriciamossvreeland.com/