Documentia by CRC’s Benjamin Kaplan takes an artistic look at dementia, celebrating the memories


Bill Motchan, Special to the Jewish Light

Artists often use real life experiences to inspire their work. That’s exactly the case for St. Louis multidisciplinary artist Benjamin Kaplan. He channeled the raw emotions of being a caregiver to family members. Then he used his creativity to develop a new exhibition called “Documentia” now on display at The Gallery at The Kranzberg in Grand Center.

The exhibition’s name is a take-off on dementia, a subject with which Kaplan is all too familiar. In the past few years, Kaplan, who attends Central Reform Congregation, has witnessed his grandparents and his father suffer from memory loss. Documentia does not focus on the sadness of dementia but rather celebrates memories and senses, Kaplan said.

“Here’s this super brutal disease and we as caregivers and family members undertake and walk this journey with our loved ones,” said Kaplan, 51. “My hope was to mine something positive and hopeful that maybe one could take away. These works were helpful to me to begin the healing process.”

The medium of choice for Documentia is a series of digital collages. If you’ve ever created a collage using paste and magazine clippings, this method uses technology. Kaplan said Photoshop gives him control over the collage elements and simplifies his set of tools. He still sometimes creates collage components with rollers and print screens but using a laptop computer allows him to automate the process.

Benjamin Kaplan

Kaplan said Documentia was one of his most personal projects, because of the subject matter and close family members affected by dementia.

“It was a cathartic process to dive into these stories and recollections of mine and of me and my dad,” he said. “The dad I remember was lost years ago and this was a nice opportunity to try to reconnect with that virile and strong guy that would take me to ballgames and barhopping. Now he is a shell of who he was, so it was kind of like having a time machine to recall those positive experiences, a celebration of his life rather than holding on to all of this sadness and anger, which as someone who is grieving, I still do.”

Benjamin Kaplan’s “Documentia” exhibition will be on display at The Kranzberg, 3224 Locust Street, through Nov. 26. An opening reception is scheduled for Oct. 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. and an artist talk will be held at 3 p.m. on Oct. 22.