Artist: Connor O’Brien
Media: Video Installation
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Dr. Maxine Merlino Gallery
About Connor: Connor is an undergrad senior working on his BFA in photography. This project was inspired by his father, who has been diagnosed with dementia. Connor has been taking care of his father for six years and his father does not remember him. This happened when he was diagnosed. One day his father tried to get physical with him and it resulted in almost taking the life of Connor. This then led to him taking his father to be treated at a mental health facility.
Formal Analysis: The project was composed of one video. The video contains footage of his father and demonstrates the type of care he needs. There’s footage of him in a hospital bed, him showering, how he eats, and how he dresses. It seems like it takes a lot of work to handle simple tasks.
Content Analysis: The video shows different things. It shows the hard work that caregivers do and what they deal with. Caregivers aren’t given enough credit for the demanding work they do. The video also showed the effects of dementia. Connor’s father does not speak more than a “whoa!’ or “hey!” and requires assistance for tasks like changing and eating. Taking care of someone with an illness can be challenging and can take its toll on someone. Connor explained how it has been difficult maintaining relationships with people because he’s always needing to attend to his dad and watch over him. Connor explained how his father is now bed ridden and can’t walk or feed himself. The next progression of the dementia is either not being able to breathe or swallow.
My Experience: This art piece actually scared me. It scared me because I was reminded of my mom and her illness. My mom has epilepsy and happens to be an alcoholic. Epilepsy and alcohol do not go well together. I’ve seen just how bad the two mix. When I talked to Connor, I was mostly asking questions about how caring for his father affected him. I asked because when I lived with my mom I would take care of her when she was drunk while having a seizure every hour. It took a big toll on me. I didn’t handle it all that well and so I admire Connor for having the patience to care for his father who doesn’t remember him. He talked about how it was hard to maintain relationships with people and how hard it was to devote time and thought to other things. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to care for someone with an illness as serious as dementia. I don’t think I’d be able to handle it along with school and life. Now I’m aware of how serious illnesses can progress and I hope I can apply what I learned with how I treat my mom.