One Whidbey family's journey with Alzheimer's and art

South Whidbey Record Arts & Entertainment, Island Life
Nov 15 2008

Dementia is as cruel a disease as any, robbing its victims of their memories of a life lived, the ability to communicate as easily as they once did and a lucidity that quiets the mind with contemplation.

One local artist has used her artistic prowess to battle the ogre of Alzheimer’s and a new body of work has emerged from that fight.

In December 2001, the prolific 2D artist Sarah Wallace was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

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A special way of communicating

Alzheimer's Association Western and Central Washington State Chapter
Fall 2008 Newsletter

An article in the spring issue of our newsletter about the launching of our Memories in the Making® art program prompted a call from artist Ivan Neaigus of Langley,WA who shares his life with Sarah Wallace, also an artist. Sarah was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in December of 2001. Since then, Ivan has become her primary caregiver.

In a visit with Sarah, Ivan, and others from the South Whidbey community at Ivan and Sarah’s home in Langley, Patricia Hunter and Katherine Segura from the Alzheimer’s Association saw many examples of their individual artistic talents. Ivan was particularly anxious to share with us Sarah’s work since her diagnosis, a body of work aptly named “Transitions.” Ivan felt it was important for Sarah to be able to continue her art, both because it was a meaningful activity to help fill her day and as a means of self-expression. He reorganized her studio into a shared work space and set out her materials for her work. As time and Sarah’s disease has progressed, he needs to give her additional guidance by, perhaps, giving her a faint outline or geometric shape to help her get started with the artistic process.

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Langley woman’s art gives her a voice despite Alzheimer’s disease

Skagit Valley Herald
Dec 25 2008

LANGLEY — Sarah Wallace, 77, slowly scratches her colored pencil along a line drawn on thick paper.

Geometric designs cover the paper — possibly her only meaningful communication with the outside world. That’s what her husband, Ivan Neaigus, believes. Wallace is in the late stages of Alzheimer's disease.

"She can't express feelings, even though she might be feeling stuff inside," said Neaigus, 70. "That’s why the artwork is interesting, because I feel by her doing it, it’s connecting something internally with a way to express it."

Neaigus is Wallace's sole caregiver, but that wasn't always so. The couple used to host drawing classes in their home. Sketches of nudes line the walls behind the washing machine.

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Art, Alzheimer's and acceptance

By Margaret Potchatek
For the Examiner
Feb 4 2009

Artists Sarah Wallace and Ivan Neaigus have created the kind of simple, graceful life that evokes admiration and wistfulness in those of us who cannot seem to disengage from the frenzy and superficiality of lesser lives.

Surrounded by the damp beauty of pine and madrona woods, there is a quiet dignity to the daily routine as Ivan prepares the morning meal, draws Sarah's bath, and then sharpens and lays out, in orderly rows, an array of colored pencils for their day's work.

There is an aura of peace and tranquility that is particularly present in their studio. Sarah herself exudes a rare, natural beauty, with high cheekbones, blue eyes, and clear porcelain skin. Surrounded by her sketches from an earlier period, she sits at her work table with a welcoming grace and personal warmth that invite you to stay awhile.

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