Cheryle St. Onge ’83 has enjoyed an enviable photography career.
Her numerous awards and residencies include a Guggenheim Fellowship, and her work has been exhibited in public and private collections across the United States.
But when her mother was diagnosed with dementia a couple of years ago, St. Onge put down her camera.
“I was very depressed and not producing work at all,” she recalled during a Nov. 13 visit to the class of Toby Sisson, associate professor of studio art.
One day, to help St. Onge break out of her creative slump, a group of friends challenged her to send them eight photos of her mother in two hours. With her mother’s permission, Cheryle took the shots, sparking a deeper relationship with her mother’s illness, and a new chapter in her photography.
“I stopped thinking about the sadness of the situation,” St. Onge said. “My mom blossomed in front of the camera. She was able to be a kid again.”
St. Onge began posting her photographs and opening up about her mother’s dementia. “People who saw my work started to take my hands and tell me about their story,” she says. “Loss is a beautifully universal thing.”
She is still taking photos of her mother and adding them to her collection. “At the end of the day there is something beautiful about letting go and letting the work be,” she said.
St. Onge’s Nov. 13 visit was sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities.