Sirod X (the artist formerly known as Doris Miller) was born in Queens, N.Y., in 1936 and created many valuable works: a productive marriage, three children, and many professional and spiritual accomplishments.
“Her latest work, still in progress, is her own peaceful and magical journey through enlightenment and toward the ultimate translation of her form,” said her son, psychologist Richard Schultz.
Glimpses of her works are on display occasionally at Berman Commons in Dunwoody, where Sirod, who has dementia and is nonverbal, lives in the Ackerman Memory Care unit.
Judy Landey, a community sales counselor for Berman Commons, said: “We are one of only 25 communities in the country who are certified in the I’m Still Here approach and the only dedicated memory care neighborhood in Georgia. This memory support program specializes in communication techniques and purposeful activities regardless of the cognitive challenge. For example, one of Sirod’s caregivers, Amanda Bunder, has an amazing connection with her and enables her to paint by providing choices and colors.”
Jaffe: How would you describe Sirod’s style?
Schultz: She was influenced by masters of the early Italian, Spanish and French Renaissance movement and the Venetian and English romantic schools. You see references to Bosch, Wyeth, Filippino Lippi and El Greco. She has always been mesmerized by magical landscapes and the grace of trees, particularly jacarandas. Trees stirred happy memories of summers in upstate New York. Abstract and literal human forms, prophets, angels and even dinosaurs are woven throughout. Most are oil on canvas. Sometimes she used masonry board, stray cardboard or found objects.
Jaffe: Did your mother get a formal education, or was it more organic, like Grandma Moses, who began as an older adult?
Schultz: She did have formal training, although it did not begin until she was well into her 40s. My mom went on to earn a bachelor of fine art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with concentrations in painting and filmmaking. She also later attended the Otis Parsons art institute in Los Angeles.
Jaffe: Where has her work been displayed?
Schultz: She has shown at the Palm Springs Art Museum in San Diego, in shows curated by the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and in several competitive shows. Then came her career in the movie business.
Jaffe: How did she segue way into filmmaking?
Schultz: She began with positions in feature film development and went on to work in production, all in Los Angeles. She worked on 10 features, including “Call of the Wild,” “Silver Wolf,” and “Children of the Corn” 5 and 6. In 2000, my mom produced a film with Robin Williams titled, “An Uncommon Kindness: The Father Damien Story.” She also made “An African Sojourn,” a documentary throughout Nigeria and Ghana. In 1992 she served as director and curator of the Barbra Streisand Jewish Film Festival.
Jaffe: How would you describe her religious journey?
Schultz: As a very interesting one! My mom raised my brothers and me in a Conservative Jewish home, and all three of us were bar mitzvahed. In 1986 my parents moved to California, and she experienced a spiritual rebirth. A pivotal component of this path was her involvement with Eckankar, a religion of light and sound based in Nigeria. During this time, she divorced my father, moved to Venice Beach, and started painting and exploring her identity. Consistent with Eckankar, she believed that the soul travels via reincarnation, and the most important goal in life is to give and receive love.
Jaffe: You spend a lot of time together; how does she communicate with you?
Schultz: Traditional verbal/written communication tends to be unnecessary, and I believe it is highly overrated in general. My mom and I share a deeply felt connection that cannot be fully taken away, even by dementia. She blows sweet kisses. As her youngest child, it would be impossible for her to forget her vonce (“bedbug” in Yiddish).
Jaffe: What’s with the unusual name?
Schultz: To turn her life upside down, she decided to reverse her given name, Doris, to Sirod. She originally chose not to have any legal last name, but the IRS had a problem with this. So while signing at the “X” one day, she decided to adopt that as her surname. And it stuck.