Personal Observations: Memory Lapses


How do you know if you are too focused or if you are having memory lapses? How do you determine if your memory pattern has changed? How can you use and adapt to these changes? So what do I mean by all of this? I’ve been so busy with my big studio move I forgot my best friend’s art show. I’ve lost track of many appointments and have gotten confused with my days and weeks. Looking for this blog entry on the computer even took time. Recently, I booked a trip to Las Vegas where I was part of a museum show at the Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Art. When I got to the airport I discovered my passport had expired. What to do? Absolutely nothing I could do but go into acceptance of the facts. I did, however, force my husband to take my place at the show and learn how to use a camera and video. Of course there was that one moment of dread as the plane left when I sat down and asked myself why this had happened? The thought that perhaps we were not meant to go as the plane was going to crash occurred to me and here I had insisted my husband enjoy Las Vegas! Everything went fine, thank god.

I used to be a great multitasker (at least in my mind’s eye) and be so sharp with my memory. Now I’m having a good day if I can find my keys in a timely fashion. I’ve also noticed that my short term memory is not as precise but I seem to be able to recollect events from my childhood more readily. When did all of this change? Is there a way of banking on these life changes? How can I artistically use the shift in my memory? The good news, of course, is that scientists are now saying we do our best work if we focus on one thing at a time. We are apparently not made to multitask. So bemoaning multitasking is useless.

I used to be a great multitasker (at least in my mind’s eye) and be so sharp with my memory. Now I’m having a good day if I can find my keys in a timely fashion.

So how to use memory in a painting? Working from memory has often proved beneficial for artists as they recreate emotional or content oriented themes? Is there a way of using memory lapses artistically? Do we then shift to rendering? Cartooning? Collage seems appropriate. Perhaps scrapbooking? You know the saying Life gives you lemons…make art.

As I was about to finish this blog entry I found a magazine that spoke to this topic. In its January 2016 edition, Discover Magazine, discussed the fact that the very complex process of storing both memories as well as new experiences has only begun to be understood. Scientists have discovered that neurons, brain cells that transmit messages, alter their DNA all day, every day.

“The researchers knew that neurons fired at a steady rate to form memories but also that new experiences can overstimulate them. The trick used to help us cope is methylation and demethylation. These are chemical tags in specific locations on our DNA that can turn genes on or off without affecting the genetic code itself. Methylation and demethylation acts like a volume knob adjusting the signal strength of connected neurons by turning on or off the genes that make the signal receptors. If scientists can adjust the rate at which neurons fire, genetically or with drugs, they hope to understand memory at a molecular level”. It would be an interesting research to see how artists cope or enlarge the scope of memory. Does making art create more methylation? We are, after all, continuously problem solving. Does problem solving as an artist make us less prone to not developing Alzheimer’s? In the meantime, until they adjust my signal receptors, I just want to find my keys!

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