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Taking care of her husband as he drifted further and further into Alzheimer’s disease, watercolorist Sara Holbrook no longer had any time for painting. But the artist still needed to release her creative energy — and find a way to reflect on the staggering responsibility of tending to her life partner. (As the disease wore on, he left the house at least once in a state of undress and took an aggressive enough stance in a certain situation that the police were called.)

Administrative Overload

To cope as caretaker, sharing her lot with an estimated 11 million other Americans who tend to a loved one with Alzheimer’s, Holbrook turned to photography. In her 99 Problems series, she used her art to depict in wry, whimsical, and even humorous ways the impossibility of looking after a spouse with deepening dementia. It allowed her to breathe in a situation where there hasn’t been much room for air.

Except for one photograph in the series, it’s all a collage effect: a giant rabbit glaring at her menacingly through a thin pane of glass as she tries to wash a window that is clearly too tall for her; trying to push a car from behind in high heels, in the middle of nowhere; becoming flattened, literally, under a mountain of bills and other paperwork; hanging upside down as the clapper in an image called “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

Some of Holbrook’s art from the series now hangs in Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital and at the Hebrew Senior Life Center in Roslindale. Art galleries have started asking to schedule exhibitions.


Come see her work on display, and hear her talk about the experience of loving someone for decades only to find them irrevocably slipping away and, in the process, using your art to try make sense of something that makes absolutely none — to describe something that is indescribable.

The presentation begins at 7 PM on Thursday, April 6th. But the doors will open at 6:30 for drinks and hors d’oeuvres. The Ames Chapel is located at 12 South Street, Hingham.


There is no ticket price per se. This event is being completely underwritten by the Friends of Hingham Cemetery. But a minimum of $10 must be donated, with 100 percent of all contributions to be forwarded to the Alzheimer’s Association, which works to provide care and support and find a cure for this devastating disease. The total amount raised will be announced at the event.

Seating is limited. This presentation will be filmed by PBS, with parts of it to air on PBS Rhode Island Weekly. 

No paper tickets. All names will be checked off at the door.