For some people, art is a profession. For others, a hobby. For Arlene de Silva, it’s a passion.
Arlene is the featured Artist of the Month at Bethany Village. Her display is a collection of individual photo portraits in an exhibit titled “Faces in Aging.” The pictures are candid, real. In her own words: “So many people are afraid of aging, and I wanted to show the faces and their wisdom and character. In the faces, we see a lot of giving. These people paved the way for us. Some of the subjects are not elderly, but aging nonetheless.”
Arlene formerly served as the Chief Operating Officer for the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio (COA). Currently, she consults with organizations serving older adults on issues of aging and strategic planning. She developed her exhibit while still at COA as a meaningful way to celebrate a milestone. As her 25th anniversary with COA approached, the staff wanted to give Arlene a gift; instead, she asked them to let her think about a way she could give back to them. That led her to create her exhibit. In 2003 she did her first portrait, which is called “Simply Red.” She continued to photograph older adults in various places, capturing the essence of aging and life through their expressions.
She says, “I feel a personal bonding with the people in the portraits. Some of them stay in touch with me. So I wrote a coffee table book with their stories and portraits which was published and released in 2009 in Westminster, London, and then the book was released in the USA in January 2011.” The book is also on display at Bethany’s Art Center. She appreciates the value of the Art Center, giving Bethany residents opportunities to create, engage in, and view art, and the friendliness of the Bethany community during her visits.
In addition to opportunities in the Cincinnati area, Arlene has displayed her photographs in Boston, Washington, DC, Montana, Great Britain, the Middle East, and Sri Lanka. Many of her photos were taken in those areas as well. Last year she exhibited in Switzerland at their national aging conference.
Arlene hopes that through her art people realize that the emotions attached to aging are universal and powerful. She says, “It does not matter where in the world you are; we have the same feelings and commonality of aging. Feelings about the fears and joys of aging cross all cultures.”
To sum up her exhibit—the product of her passion for serving older adults and taking pictures—Arlene notes: “People are drawn to beauty, and this exhibit shows the beauty of aging.”