George Luks, Telling Fortunes, 1914. Oil on canvas 20 x 16 in., Acquired 1922. The Phillips Collection, Washington DC.
The Phillips is currently hosting the exhibition Art and Wellness: Creative Aging. The display features work from our program which encourages older adults (many of whom suffer from Alzheimer’s or related dementia), along with their families and caregivers, to make connections and access personal experiences and long-term memories through gallery conversations and hands-on art therapy. It is part of an ongoing collaboration between The Phillips Collection and Iona Senior Services.
Through the program, we looked at George Luks’s Telling Fortunes. Members of the group made observations about the artist’s use of color and the emotional impact of the figure. Individuals were also curious about the woman in the painting. They considered what she may be holding, suggesting a crystal ball, cup, or candle giving off light. They described the figure as looking “amazed,” “curious,” and “intense.”
The exploration continued in the art therapy studio at Iona. Individuals were invited to reflect further by making silk mandalas. Using ink, they were encouraged to let the colors spread on the silk. This freeing and meditative process brought forth feelings of “amazement” and “curiosity” within the group. One group member related her experience to Luks’s painting, stating “This kind of thing has elements of unknown, just like the painting…”
Top: (left to right) Larry, Untitled, Ink on silk; Oscar, Untitled, Ink on silk; Patricia, Untitled, Ink on silk. Bottom: (left to right) Suzanne, Untitled, Ink on silk; Theresa, In the Flow, Ink on silk; Anita, Untitled, In on silk.