‘Presence: An Exploration of Aging Through Art’ Exhibit Challenges Perceptions of Growing Old

A new exhibition and educational series opens Thursday, March 5, at Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center. “Presence: An Exploration of Aging Through Art” examines the universal, yet intensely personal, experience of growing old.

Through a variety of media, the exhibition explores a broad range of perspectives — from thriving lifestyles to the harsher realities of aging. “Presence” provides insight into the physical and mental aging process, challenges us to rethink how we perceive age, highlights the therapeutic benefits of the creative process and examines the role of elders in our society.

A series of learning and community-building events also will take place.

“Presence” is part of the Stifel Center’s humanities series, developed by curator Michael McKowen.

“I believe that the role of the Stifel Fine Arts Center is to provide a place to commune,” McKowen said. “A public art space should invite exploration. By presenting topics that affect every human being, we provide opportunities for emotional, physical, mental and spiritual growth.”

“Mom’s Journey” by Roberta Rousos

The exhibit showcases work from a dozen artists from six states.

Among the featured artists are :

• Isadora Kosofsky, a Los Angeles-based documentary photographer, who was recently named one of a hundred “heroines” in photography worldwide by the Royal Photo Society

• Photographer Marna Clarke, who at age 70 decided to chronicle her own aging process

• Mixed-media artist Sylvie Bucher whose “Memory” series explores how memory fragments with age and dementia

• New York-based poet and founder of the internationally acclaimed Alzheimer’s Poetry Project Gary Glazner

• Ohio watercolorist Gina Judy whose paintings depict her father’s time in a nursing home

• Sculptor Morgan Kranz whose series of hand sculptures explores how to show compassion for the inevitable aging process

 • Art therapist, educator and artist Annie McFarland

• Mixed media artist Roberta Rousos whose work deals with the duality and contradiction of body and soul

“Presence” also features pieces from four Ohio Valley artists Thomas Wharton, Jean Och, Debbie Joseph and Robert Joseph and includes work from students in Chatham University’s Interior Architecture Program.

Educational programs will take place weekly and include panel discussions on aging and dementia, presentations from featured artists, yoga and wellness workshops, spoken word events and art therapy sessions. All programs are free and open to the public.

“Presence” is sponsored by Wheeling Hospital, The Health Plan and United Bank with additional support provided by the Home Support Foundation.

A free opening reception with the artists takes place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 5.

The exhibit will be on display at Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center through April 25 and can be viewed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Evening hours are dependent on classes and special events.

For more information, visit the website or call the Stifel Fine Arts Center at 304-242-7700.

“Presence” Educational Programs

In conjunction with the exhibit, Oglebay Institute will host a series of learning and community-building events. Programs explore the various facets of aging and how art can play a role in that experience.

All programs are free and open to the public.

• Thursday, March 5: A Journey Through Dementia, 6 p.m., Stifel Fine Arts Center

April Wintermoyer, owner of Right At Home in Wheeling and Morgantown, will facilitate a virtual dementia experience. By altering senses and perceptions, the program simulates day-to-day realities of people living with dementia, enabling participants to experience firsthand the physical and mental challenges for those living with the disease.

• Wednesday, March 11: Senior Yoga Class with Amy Johnson, 10 a.m., Stifel Fine Arts Center

In this 45-minute chair class, practice movement, balance, flexibility and breathing techniques and cultivate an understanding of their importance. Open to any senior citizen, 65 and older. Reservations required.

• Thursday, March 12: Help, Hope & Understanding: A Dialogue on Dementia, 6 p.m., Stifel Fine Arts Center

Experts in the fields of geriatric social work and dementia care discuss caregiving and treatment for dementia patients.

• Thursday, March 19: An Evening of Spoken Word, 6 p.m., Stifel Fine Arts Center

Join Marc Harshman, West Virginia poet laureate, and other writers for an evening of poetry and prose, reflecting on the concepts and culture of aging.

• Thursday, March 26: Art Therapy Discussion with West Liberty University, 6 p.m., Stifel Fine Arts Center

Dr. Susan Ridley and students in WLU’s creative arts therapy program discuss their experiences working with patients at Wheeling Hospital’s Continuous Care Center including purpose, goals and directives of art therapy.

• Thursday, April 2: Isadora Kosofsky, 6 p.m., Stifel Fine Arts Center

Isadora Kosofsky will discuss her photo documentary and feature film “Senior Love Triangle.”

• April 3-5: “Senior Love Triangle,” 7 p.m. Friday, 4 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Towngate Theatre

Inspired by the true story documented in Isadora Kosofsky’s photo series by the same name, “Senior Love Triangle” is a narrative feature film that focuses on intimacy, romantic love, loneliness and loss through a trio of senior citizens.

“Jeanie and Will Kiss” from Isadora Kosofsky’s “Senior Love Triangle” photo documentary

• Thursday, April 9: It’s Never Too Late: Creating Art Later in Life, 6 p.m. Stifel Fine Arts Center

Established and emerging artists over the age of 60 discuss their careers — some of which have been life-long and others that blossomed after retirement — and how creating art has enriched their lives.

• Thursday, April 16: NEA Panel on Creative Aging, 6 p.m. Stifel Fine Arts Center

Beth Bienvenu of the National Endowment for the Arts leads a discussion on Creative Aging — the practice of engaging older adults in participatory arts programs to benefit individuals and the community at large.

• Thursday, April 23: Navigating End of Life Care, 6 p.m. Stifel Fine Arts Center

Experts in elder care discuss key elements of quality end of life care, including person-centered care, team approaches, involvement in programs such as hospice, and caregiver support.


Marna Clarke, photographer

When California-based photographer Marna Clarke turned 70, she decided to chronicle the process of getting old. She didn’t realize that she would end up embracing these images as a tribute not just to her life, but also to the ever more demanding task of aging with grace.

Her work focuses on coming to a better understanding of what it is to be considered old and challenges us to go beyond our culture’s present attitudes and treatment of its senior citizens.

“Presence” will feature two highly acclaimed series of work by Clarke: ”Time as We Know It,” depicting her own aging process, and “Autumn,” documenting active seniors in everyday life.

“Getting old is inevitable, but abandoning curiosity and a sense of wonder and humor is a choice,” Clarke says. “These qualities keep us young in our minds and hearts and fuel us daily to keep putting one foot in front of the other, figuratively and literally, as challenging as that might be.”

From the “Time as We Know It” photo series by Marna Clark

Sylvie Bucher, mixed-media artist

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Born in Mulhouse, France, mixed-media artist Sylvie Bucher graduated with honors at the art/design school Le Quai in 2000. For 14 years, she created and led art workshops for people with disabilities at institutions in France, Finland and Canada with the Alzheimer’s Society,

After three kids and a move to Greenville, South Carolina, in 2014, Bucher returned to her art in a new way, drawing inspiration from her new hometown and from the whole United States. Bucher has shown her work extensively throughout the American south and is featured in private collections worldwide, including France, Thailand, the U.S. and Finland.

“Presence” includes works from Bucher’s “Memory” series, an exploration of how memory fragments with age and dementia.

Working with Alzheimer’s patients greatly impacted Bucher’s life and she describes her works as “a transcription of my feelings about them, an expression of life that sometimes left their mind but not their soul. An abstract travel through time and memory like a road trip in a brain.”

Gary Glazner, poet

New York-based poet Gary Glazner is the founder of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project — a program that uses poetry to awaken the minds and spirits of those living with memory loss.

Built around the concepts of creative aging and person-centered care, APP uses humor, joy and the power of the spoken word to trigger memories, improve happiness, reduce isolation and provide social and intellectual stimulation.

The APP received a Rosalinde Gilbert Innovations in Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiving Legacy Award and a MetLife Foundation Creativity and Aging in America Leadership Award. The National Endowment for the Arts listed the APP as a “best practice.” NBC’s “Today” show, NPR’s “All Things Considered” and the PBS NewsHour series, “Where Poetry Lives,” have featured segments on Glazner’s work.

To date, the APP has held programming in 26 states and internationally in Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Poland and South Korea, serving more than 35,000 people living with dementia.

For “Presence,” Glazner will train Wheeling area middle and high school students to create and perform poetry with the elders at Wheeling Hospital’s Continuous Care Center. The project will be documented through photography and video, which will on display in the exhibition along with written reflections by the students.

Gina Judy, painter

Ohio watercolorist Gina Judy was a caregiver for her father, an Alzheimer’s patient, for six years until he entered long-term care. “Presence” features her paintings depicting her father’s time in a nursing home.

Judy is a retired art educator of 30 years in Ohio public schools. She was recognized as an Ohio Region East Outstanding Art Educator and named to the Ohio Art Education Association Circa-Society of Membership and winner of a Wintersville, Ohio, Citizen of the Year award for her mural work with students.

Since her retirement from teaching five years ago, she has exhibited in 12 states and in 22 shows that have required a national or international screening, placing in three of them.

In 2019, Judy’s work was juried into “OH+5,” a six-state biennial regional exhibit sponsored by The Dairy Barn Arts Center, Athens, Ohio, and she had a solo show at Artworks Around Town in Wheeling. Also, she received first place in “Waterworks,” Pittsburgh Watercolor Society Member Show, from juror Sarah Hall, chief curator of collections at The Frick, Pittsburgh.

“Portrait of Alzheimer’s,” by Gina Judy

Isadora Kosofsky, photographer

Isadora Kosofsky is a Los Angeles-based documentary photographer, photojournalist and filmmaker. She immerses herself in the lives of the people she shadows for months and even years, studying communities as occupant rather than visitor.

She was nominated for a 2016 Lead Award (German Pulitzer) for her long-term documentary series “Senior Love Triangle.” “Presence” will feature multiple prints from that series. Additionally, the feature film based on this work will be shown at Towngate Theatre.

Kosofsky’s focus on American social issues examines the intersection of personal and political conflicts, documenting mental health, incarceration, substance use, disability rights, gender violence, childhood trauma and senior citizen rights, all through the lens of one individual or group of people.

She has contributed to publications worldwide including, The New York Times, TIME, The Washington Post, Germany’s GEO, Paris Match, London’s The Sunday Times and many others. Kosofsky has lectured at the National Geographic Photography Seminar, numerous universities and the National Conference on Crime and Delinquency. Her work is featured in permanent collections, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

She is a recipient of a 2018 grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting for her ongoing work on girl survivors of complex trauma. The Royal Photo Society recently named her one of a hundred “heroines” in photography worldwide. She is a TED Fellow, part of a network of 450 global change-makers and gave a talk at TED 2018 in Vancouver.

Morgan Kranz, sculptor

South Carolina-based artist Morgan Kranz has a passion for both art and science and finding ways to combine them in her work.

Her series of hand sculptures, titled “Empathy in Aging,” explores how to show compassion for the inevitable aging process. The concept for this work was inspired by her time working as a nursing assistant in a nursing home.

Kranz chose hands as a subject matter because they not only reveal a sense of individuality but also are universally understood. Each separate sculpture consists of one or more life casts of hands in an empathetic, caring or comforting position. The process involved subjects making physical connections with one another to bring her concept to life.

Her work portrays the aging body as beautiful, shows interaction between various age groups and evokes a feeling of comfort and harmony. Her goal is to inspire a compassionate response and awareness through her work.

“Empathy in Aging,” from a sculpture series by Morgan Kranz

Annie McFarland, art therapist

Michigan native Annie McFarland is an art therapist, educator and artist. She is an associate professor of art education and visual art therapy at West Virginia University and a doctoral candidate at Florida State University. Her dissertation research focuses on the use of papermaking with veterans to address trauma, PTSD and veteran to civilian readjustment.

McFarland has worked in a variety of settings, including, hospice care, inpatient psychiatric facilities, pediatric rehabilitation, memory care/dementia facilities and various veteran settings.

McFarland said, “Art therapy allows people to break down barriers and connect with their inner self in a more fluid and creative way. It allows people to explore things that they haven’t been able to access before. In this way, it helps with healing and rebuilding after trauma, loss and recovery.”

In addition to her clinical work, she has also done research in art education and worked with art educators to help develop meaningful and culturally responsive teaching practices.

Roberta Rousos, mixed-media sculptor and painter

Based in Pollock Pines, California, mixed-media sculptor Roberta Rousos returned to college after the death of her husband and earned degrees in studio art and discovered new paths in creative expression.

Creating began as an escape from thinking and feeling, a way to keep busy.  It gradually became an outlet for her pain and then a testament to her rebirth.

Her multi-media works include aluminum casting, steel, found objects and knitting. Her work focuses on seemingly opposing materials. Her finished pieces appear highly abstracted, but consistently deal with the duality and/or contradiction of body and soul.

“The physical world surrounds us and impacts us in the form of our actual body, our community, our world,” she said in her artist’s statement, “Our soul, however, is nebulous. Regardless of your preferred term or religious philosophy, our soul is what makes us who we are. It is our spark, our vitality, our personality. We are both our body and our soul.”