Art Show #3, and Art’s will

As I write this we are four days away from our 3rd Annual Art Lee Art Show and Fundraiser! I can’t believe it! We are looking forward to this weekend with excitement, anticipation, and trepidation. As you can imagine, things have changed significantly for my beloved in the past three years. But his indomitable determination to live life on his own terms, marches on.

All year long Art gets up each day with a solitary mission in his mind-to create extraordinary oil paintings. After he was initially diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, and his beloved license to drive was taken away, he was devastated. He had retired the year before and was enjoying being a part time limo driver. He always drove when we went out-even on the simplest treks, like the corner store, or the local gas station. He drove all over the 50 plus towns that he covered as the paving coordinator for his job at the gas company. When we traveled, honestly, Art drove 75% of the time. We used to have a pop-up camper, and he drove with it attached to the car the majority of the time. Oh I could do it too, but he believed he was better at it (and he was). The man loved driving, period. So as you can imagine telling him he was no longer capable of driving, and that he posed a potential safety hazard to the other drivers out there, the issue not only crushed, but angered this once consummate driver.

Thus, Art’s path to his daily existence began to take shape in another way: his painting. With his love of driving being stripped from his life, his passion in oil painting took center stage. Where others would have delved deep into depression, become emotionally devoid, and given up on life’s pleasures, my husband took the news with an angry, fighting spirit, refusing to allow it to define who he was. Instead, he chose to reinvent himself and live life through the elegance, wonder, and whimsy of the diversity of his artwork. Now, nearing four years post LBD diagnosis, his mission each day remains the same: paint. There are times when he is faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles that are an ugly symptom of his illness; a cruelly deteriorating condition, which is in part affecting his strength and capacity to hold the ever crucial paintbrush on his worst days. But have no fear, when this daunting effect is present, this guy uses his fingers instead. For a disease that robs him of critical thinking skills in the most common circumstances (“How do I turn on the coffee maker, use the microwave, the toaster oven…?”), when it comes to problem solving with his artistic endeavors, he is surprisingly resilient. Case in point, he created a painting of the Eilean Donan Castle, my family’s clan castle in Scotland, done only with his fingers. That was a particularly shaky day for his hands. The tremors were unrelenting. But he persevered, and what resulted was an amazing masterpiece! No one would know that the castle likeness was not the result of a traditional means, unless we told them the unique method used. It’s that spectacular.

We look forward to the art show and fundraiser again this year, and seeing many faces, some familiar, some new, all welcome sights! That first year we held the art show Art was animated, up and walking around, spouting his wit and wisdom for all to hear. Classic Arthur. He was energized and overflowing with pride, nervousness, and excitement, to say the least. At the suggestion of the gallery owners, he brought his paints and canvas, and when there was a lull in the gallery activity, he sat at the easel, working on his next showpiece. The next year brought him back to the gallery, but sadly, unable to sit comfortably and paint there, as he had in the past. It was just too overwhelming, so he sat much of the time outside the gallery, greeting folks and hopefully, potential customers. Sometimes he quipped, sometimes he stared at seemingly nothing; all part of his advancing LBD. But he was there.

He loved being surprised by so many friends who took the time to drive to the show and support him at the fundraiser. This year we contemplated not having the show, as he tires especially easily now, and struggles to function at all some days, often sleeping instead. His body is mostly hunched, his gait askew, and his memory is becoming distressingly altered. He is entering a new, more debilitating phase. Some who have not seen him in a while may be stunned if he happens to be having an off day during the this year’s show. But regardless of his energy level, he was adamant; the show must go on. After all, what else are we going to do with the 500 some odd paintings in our basement, aka his studio?

We look forward to the show with excitement, anticipation, and trepidation, to put it mildly! As you can imagine, three days is a lot for anyone to be at the gallery, show his art work, and hope for a tidy profit to donate to a worthy cause; his own unstoppable disease. The excitement and anticipation has been building ever since we booked the date. This has evolved into a family event-we are not alone throughout the three days. His artwork has been turned into prints, cards, and this year, a calendar. His original oil paintings are of course, being shown and hopefully sold. We are understandably concerned with his staying at the gallery all the time-and will bring him home if he appears exhausted and completely spent. We will be vigilant, keeping a watchful eye on Art and his condition each day. So if you go and do not see him, know it was just too much for his body at the end of the day. One of our family members will be there in his place to greet you. But his fighting spirit lives on, and if he can be there the entire time, you know he will. I am thankful God gifted Art with this amazing talent, the drive and determination to keep going each day and to use his gift to show others how to fight in the face of harsh realities.

Finally, we have a cherished, longtime friend from my own childhood, Ron, who has continuously supported us by showing up to the Art show in the past, as he drove all the way from Florida (a kindred spirit of Art’s with a love of driving, too), who is now fighting his own health battle with cancer, who understandably will not be able to join us this year. Ron recently shared this quote from history that perfectly fit into his condition, that resonated with both Art and I as we face the future with LBD: “Never give in…Never yield to the apparently overwhelming strength of the enemy. Winston Churchill 1941” That about sums up our daily lives, too. We forge onward, not giving in, and we also thank God for another day filled with his love and grace upon our lives.

Christine M Lee

Nov 05, 2019