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I now offer commissions (see "Memory Circles for Susan"). Email me if you are interested. 

MC Cave 2022 LR.JPG

Memory Circles Cave. Ink, charcoal, gold leaf, metallics, pencil. 19 x 24 in. 2022

Memory Circle Susan 2020 Low Res.jpg

Memory Circles for Susan. 2020 (22 x 30 in. Acrylic, ink, foil, parchment.)

Memory Circles #10  (22 x 30 in. Acrylic, watercolor, ink.)

Memory Circles #6. 2018 (22 x 30 in. Watermedia, ink.)

Memory Circles #2 . 2017 (22 x 30 in. Watermedia, ink.)

Memory Circle #11.  2019 (9"x12" in. Ink, watercolor)


Ocean Memory
2017 (6 x 6 in. Watercolor, metallics, ink)

"I begin with paper, a pen, and so many thoughts, and then focus on each mark. With each stroke of pen or brush, I more fully appreciate that life is made up of seconds, choices made in seconds, memories overlapped and woven through our lives in seemingly endless strands of seconds. Of course, these strands are not endless at all.


"One day, it is a full life––hopefully long but perhaps so short that it breaks your heart. In any case, an entire life. And these little marks? They could outlast a life. Or, they could get chewed by a dog. They are not permanent, though they could definitely outlast an actual memory.


"I don't know if a scientist can look inside of a brain and see a memory there. Does one sort of memory look different from another? Where are those memories kept and how are they kept? I wish I had the mind of a scientist, but I don't. So, I make these marks on pages and think about life, love, and all those seconds that add up. After all, that's all any of us can do. Make the moments, make them well, and then hold the memories as best we can."

Memory Circles #8.  2018 (16 x 20 in. watermedia, ink)

A Joyful Memory

A Joyful Memory 2018 (6"x4" acrylic on canvas)

Blue Wave

Blue Wave Memory
2018 (6"x4" acrylic on canvas, silver metallics)

The Lingering Memory

The Lingering Memory 2018 (6"x4" acrylic on canvas, gold leaf)

Memory Circles 23,456. 2019 (9"x12" Watercolor, ink.)

Memory Circles #1. 2017 (18" x 20" Watermedia, ink.)

When Your Memories Go to Heaven and Wait for You There
2019  (14" x 16" Watercolor, ink.)

Stacking Memories

Stacking Memory. 2018 (6"x4" acrylic on canvas)

The Missing Memory

The Missing Memory. 2018 (6"x4" acrylic on canvas)

Birth of a Memory

Birth of a Memory Circle 2018 (6"x4" acrylic on canvas)


Everline. (offshoot of Memory Circles) 2021. Ink. 9 x 12 in.


Joan E. Phelps

I began this series in 2017. My older sister, Joan, had been ill for a while and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Dementia. At that time I had already been interested in memories, having started two novels where memories are a theme. In reading about what happens in the brain of folks with ALZ, I began to wonder just where memories are stored. With no medical or scientific background (only decades of painting and drawing), I tried to visualize what memories (and their deterioration and loss) might look like. I began with Memory Circles #1 (shown on this page). 

Separated by many miles, my sister and I would talk on the phone, leisurely, lovingly. Sometimes I would sit outside and stare at the clouds and trees as we talked. Sometimes I would be in my studio, working on a painting. Not only was I thinking about memories, but making memories. As 2017 turned to 2018 and then 2019, my sister's health deteriorated. It was heartbreaking to witness, as so many families touched by Alzheimer's have experienced. 

By midsummer of 2019, phone conversations had to end, as finding words for a conversation was too challenging for Joan, who had an MBA, was a speechwriter for a Fortune 100 company, and a member of MENSA. Our conversations paused until we could be face-to-face. 

In January and February of 2020, I was able to say the words to her in person that were most important for me to say and for her to hear: "You have been a wonderful sister. I love you." Joan entered Hospice care and passed away mid-March. 

When she moved from a condo into assisted living, I told her I would hold her memories. Of course, this proved to be impossible. Separated by many years in age, she had lived many memories of her own while I was still a child . But, I could hold the memory of her and I could paint, and that is something. It brought me comfort and Joan was able to see a photo of one of the paintings in 2017, before she lost her sight. There are many paintings in the series and additional pieces on other themes.

The Memory Circles paintings continue and I now offer commissions (see "Memory Circles for Susan"). Email me if you are interested. 


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