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The power of art: defining science

Today I decided to write about something not so “scientific” but something having to do with the science of the body. I had started following the NewScientist blog and I read a piece of writing about a man with Alzheimer’s disease and how he was still able to paint throughout the years following. He painted the way he imagined his brain decaying and I was astounded by the fact that he could still paint while having this disease. I know this subject is a little depressing especially if you guys read my blog on antidepressants. But this time, I just really wanted to show you guys how amazing people can be. And how diseases can’t take away everything from someone.

This man’s name was William Utermolen. In the pictures below, there is a noticable  difference between them. As his disease progressed, he became interested more in self-portraits and how he “saw” his brain. His artwork gave his wife, Patricia, some optimism ,when all the signs pointed to something completely different. William’s clinical psychologist had a few comments about his condition and she even thought that music and art could be good for someone with this disease.

I do believe this is true too, not only because of Wiliiam but because of my grandfather who suffered from this disease. He wasn’t “all there” of course, but when he heard music , he was like a little kid again. He would dance and clap his hands and for a little while we would all have a good time just enjoying his happiness with him.

This man, William Utermolen is the definition of how amazing people can be. Even with this disease he still had the passion, talent and dedication to keep painting. And his wife, Patricia, upheld the true meaning of love , because she  showed how dedicated she was to her husband and how passionate she was about his painting. It’s stories like these in life where people truly are amazing. Although William’s brain was declining, his passion for art never did.

So maybe, art, especially in William’s case ,helps people through the toughest of situations. His art was his definition of  “science”. What do you think? What does science mean to you?


  1. February 6, 2012 at 2:34 am

    I feel that I have discovered the great fusion of art as science (for me, at least) and have started studying a program in art therapy. The idea that parts of his brain were still firing, even though they were probably doing so in different ways as the disease progressed, is fascinating and inspiring. The brain is nothing if not plastic, and although diseases like Alzheimer’s shrink many of it’s capacities, the brain is continuing to function. The fact that this man continued to paint, is so incredible, and it probably gave him a voice that otherwise would have been lost by his disease. That’s the power of art. You can be non-verbal or pre-verbal, or even just not that good at giving words to your emotions – but anyone can make art, anyone at all. This is a great story. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. February 6, 2012 at 6:08 am

    I can especially relate to this story, as an extended family member is struggling with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease at the same time. The Parkinson’s has made him degenerate more rapidly than his Alzheimer’s. Although he is generally a clear but slow speaker, his movement is very impaired, and his walk has become the typical “shuffle walk” of a Parkinson’s patient. However, when music comes on and he starts dancing with his wife, it’s as if the Parkinson’s goes away and the past two years have been reversed! It’s truly amazing how such artistic activities such as dancing, painting, or music provides such great therapy for such degenerative diseases.

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