An artist's wish fulfilled
Pam Benet's bright eyes lit up when she talked about her art work, greeting guests and well-wishers in an activity room at Marquis Post Acute Rehab Center in Tualatin on Friday afternoon.
It was a huge day for the 64-year-old artist, who has end-stage heart failure and is in hospice care, fulfilling a lifelong dream to host the first art show of her life.
Displayed throughout the room were 11 beautifully drawn acrylics on stretched canvasses of various sizes. To the amateur, Pam's artwork might be termed abstract with hints of Picasso. But Pam would be the first to agree not to be pigeonholed into any particular style, or influence, said her son and caretaker, Skye.
Skye said his mother had been looking forward to the one-day show for a long time, having her hair and nails done for the special event.
"We joked, she's a movie star for today," said Skye, who described his mother as being a "fiery redhead" throughout her life.
He too, welcomed all those in attendance, explaining that although Pam is still sharp as a tack, she sometimes has a hard time getting the words out and Skye was there to answer the questions and fill in the details of his mother's life.
After spending her early life in Beaverton, Pam moved to Sacramento and later Ashland. Both she and Skye have live in Tualatin for the last five years.
Along the way, Pam worked as a florist and got a certified massage license to help pay the bills.
Always physically fit and an avid eater of organic foods, Skye said it was a complete shock when his mother suffered both a heart attack and stroke about 15 years ago.
Still, it didn't slow her down and she started painting again about a year later.
"She's been an artist her whole life," Skye explained, saying his mother is largely a self-taught artist who never sold her paintings.
However, she did do a few murals for people over the years, part of commission work that she never really liked.
But after Pam's stroke and heart attack, her art style changed, recalled Skye.
The artist that once drew mostly charcoal figure drawings switched to acrylics and her art took on a more personal connection for a woman that's always been a very spiritual person. More recently, she started signing her paintings with both her maiden and married name: Goerlich-Benet.
When Skye learned three or four months ago that his mother needed to go into hospice, he was in shock. But at the same time he said he's extremely grateful for the help Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care has provided, especially when he found about their plans for the art show and a reception.
"Seasons Hospice has really made it a positive," he said. "They've helped and done just everything they can to make (her) life great."
Bobbi Ewert, a hospice care consultant for Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care, said they were happy to fulfill Pam's wish.
"We knew right off the bat that art was important to her," said Ewert. "It first started off with 'hey let's get her an easel' and just let her paint here," said Ewert. "Just because she's not at home anymore doesn't mean she can't do what she loves and then it became we found out that she had all this artwork and she got more confident (and agreed to a show)."
And that part about Pam never selling a piece of artwork changed? Well that recently changed after selling her first piece to a private collector. Now she is willing to sell some of her other pieces, said Skye, adding they are hoping to find a photographer to highlight his mother's lifelong work.
"We want to take high-quality pictures and (create) some type of prints or cards," he said.
Skye describes his mother as someone who is always sensitive, positive and seems to love everybody.
"I would say she sees the best in everyone," he said.
For her part, Pam said she loving her first art show, saying when she paints she wants to be in the moment or as she explained, "let it go, feel it" and return to it. Admitting she didn't have a single favorite color, Pam said she was both happy and surprised so many showed up for the show.
"Wow! It's good," she said.