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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Calendar > Arts and Culture

Evoking memories through watercolor

Artist pays tribute to her mother who suffered from Alzheimer's

By Isabel Braverman - staff writer

By: Isabel Braverman | Democrat
Artist Cynthia Strunsky-McLean displayed her artwork at the Bethel Presbyterian Church.
BETHEL - Vibrant watercolor paintings hang from the walls of a church among the stained-glass windows. Artist Cynthia Strunsky-McLean hopes her works will make the viewer feel her story.
“A Tribute in Watercolor: Mother House,” tells the story of Strunsky-McLean's mother who suffered from Alzheimer's and succumbed to the disease. For three years Strunsky-McLean was her mother's caregiver and lived with her in the house that she grew up in. During the first year she was able to just sit with her mother and paint. During the third year is when her mother passed away, and she sat in the empty house packing up all the belongings.
She painted that, too.
The paintings were displayed in the Bethel Presbyterian Church on May 19, in association with and a benefit for the Alzheimer's Association Hudson Valley Chapter. Strunsky-McLean has been a professional artist for 50 years and works in traditional mediums. She is also a member of the church. This exhibit was accompanied by a soundscape composed by her son who plays the trumpet.
Representatives from the Alzheimer's Association were on hand and gave a talk titled “Know the 10 Signs: Early Detection Matters.” The association created a list of warning signs for Alzheimer's and other dementias to help identify problems early. Individuals may experience one or more of these signs in different degrees. Early diagnosis gives the chance to seek treatment and plan for the future. To learn more, visit
The Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research. Its mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Visit or call 800-272-3900.
The paintings deal with the passing of both her parents, portraying the history of her family in the house where they lived for more than 50 years. Strunsky-McLean uses the house she grew up in to represent stability and the passing of the seasons to reflect the closure of life.
The artist explained that each painting started with a moment of inspiration, and though she painted from real objects, she added her own ideas and “gave the paintings a twist of the mind.” Each painting has a title that corresponds to the overall journey of her and her mother. Titles such as “The Matriarch and Her Domain” are in the beginning of the series, and toward the end is a work titled “Confused Season in a Confused World.”
Strunsky-McLean recalled the first sign that something was amiss with her mother. “My mother was making pasta for a family gathering,” she said. “She put it in the pot without water and just turned the flame on. We knew something wasn't right.”
After that, the disease progressed rapidly to the point where she needed constant care. Since Strunsky-McLean was self-employed at the time, she was able to be her mother's primary caregiver for a full year until it was necessary to involve professionals.
The artworks were displayed as a tribute to her mother, but only for one day, a fleeting moment in time just like memories. “I hope you feel the story,” Strunsky-McLean said. The exhibit was a one-day event, but it will be popping up again some time soon in Sullivan County.

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