Local Struggles Reflected in “Vestiges of the Tide”

by CYNTHIA GERMAIN, founder and president of aging organization Do Good Door County

Vestiges of the Tide, the first-floor exhibit on display at Sturgeon Bay’s Miller Art Museum, focuses on a subject that’s relevant to our community: aging. Two artists, Mary Porterfield and Ellen Holtzblatt, join forces in the powerful display, offering images of the struggles of the older adults and their caregivers.

Porterfield’s background as an occupational therapist inspired her to create life-sized images, using family members as models, that pull hard on the heartstrings. These images convey the difficulties caregivers experience and the loss of identity that can come when aging impacts one’s abilities. Porterfield’s work shares her parents’ story – one of perseverance, hardship and love.

Mary Porterfield. Photo courtesy of the Miller Art Museum.

Holtzblatt broaches the subject of aging through her 100-year-old mother, who experiences advanced memory loss. Her experiences are displayed through portraits that highlight the sense of timelessness at this stage of life, as well as the need for human contact and touch. 

Ellen Holtzblatt. Photo courtesy of the Miller Art Museum.

Some of the artist’s images blend her mother into the landscape, communicating a sense of life’s fleetingness. The titles of Holtzblatt’s work come from the biblical text “Song of Songs,” conveying that love and desire are not diminished by age. 

“I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” Helen del Guidice said of the exhibit.

Perhaps pushing the envelope by tackling the subject of aging, del Guidice knows that it takes a certain level of maturity to face this topical showing.

I strongly encourage you to visit the Miller Art Museum while this exhibit is on display. Walking through the first-floor main galleries is a truly moving experience, and the exhibit proves that beauty can be found in difficult content. Its subject is near and dear to our hearts at Do Good Door County as we work to transform the aging experience on the peninsula. 

Vestiges of the Tide will be on exhibit until April 6. The Miller Art Museum is located at 107 S. 4th Ave. in Sturgeon Bay.

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