August 16-September 27, 2021. Living Proof Exhibit: Cancer Survivor Art
Art serves so many purposes. Being aesthetic in essence, its virtue is visual. We see a painting and like the images or the colors or maybe, we think, it would go so well with our blue sofa. There’s not a wrong reason to like art.
Art as therapy has a long history and many politicians, engineers and bankers often surprise us with their creative works. After Winston Churchill was done leading England through and out of World War II, he settled down with brush and paints and created beautiful landscapes. Paul Gauguin quit the Paris stock market to create his Tahitian portraits that influenced modern art in general and Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso in particular. Art, we now know, may improve the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of individuals. Art as therapy remains understudied and underutilized but its powers are well recognized.
The Bisignano Art Gallery has partnered with Living Proof Exhibit group to host this competitive annual exhibition of art by cancer survivors and patients. The exhibit celebrates the spirit and creativity of these men and women as well as the therapeutic benefits of art. Co-founders Pamela Crouch and Mary Ellen Cunningham are both breast cancer survivors. They each found great power in art during their treatment and wanted to share their experience with other cancer patients looking for strength, so the Living Proof exhibition idea was born. Visit their website (http://www.livingproofexhibit.org for more information.
The Living Proof Exhibit: Art by Cancer Survivors exhibit at the University of Dubuque showcases the passion, courage and talent of cancer survivors who use art to celebrate and reflect upon survival. And, as you see, the artworks range in scope (as you might expect).
I would like to acknowledge the assistance we received from Pamela Crouch, Executive Director and Jordan Kirkbride, Programming Manager of Living Proof Exhibit in the organization and transportation of the show. Because this is a competitive exhibition, many thanks to our three judges. The judges were Gary Stoppelman, Executive Director of the Dubuque Museum of Art, Noah Bullock, Assistant Director of the Bisignano Art Gallery, and myself. I invite you to read their statements about the show. Finally, we thank the artists themselves. Their journeys have not been easy and their works are awesome.
Director, Bisignano Art Gallery
Daniel is 66 years old and a retired factory worker of 45 years. He became interested in art after his retirement.
His art helps provide balance in his life and fills a void for which he is very thankful.
Daniel is a mixed media artist with an emphasis on copper, stone, driftwood and non-traditional materials. Much of the natural materials he uses in his art he finds along local streams and rivers. The limestone also comes from a local quarry.
He is drawn three-dimensional art as well as outside the lines drawings called Zentangles.
His artistic interests stem from a love of ancient civilizations as well as spiritual influences that guide his hands as he creates.
Creativity and healing are inseparable in the lives of artists. Whether you are a cancer survivor or surviving the fear and anguish of the world’s ills, art can help you heal. Art just makes you feel better, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
My breast cancer journey began in 2000. I completed my treatment in the summer of 2001. Since then, I have donated artowrk to many local groups for their fundraising efforts. I retired in 2014 from Black Hawk College, in their Optional Education Program, an alternative high school. Besides jewelry, I also enjoy crochet, calligraphy and zentangling. My jewelry creations include polymer clay pendants, beads, and charms. One of my greatest joys is teaching Creative Sessions for Living Proof Exhibit.
Making wearable art has given me a way of expressing style. I get inspiration from art pieces, fashion and nature. I derive enjoyment from wearing my pieces and giving them to others.
My cancer journey began on February 15, 2010 Following surgery and treatments, I went into a deep funk. Why did it happen? Why was I the lucky one to survive when others had died? When would my cancer (that I still have) take my life?
Still depressed in the winter of 2013, I stumbled upon my old oil paints and brushes in the basement when I was snowed in for a couple of days. I always thought I might start painting again when I retired; now I thought, “Why wait?” I cleaned my brushes, found an old canvas that hadn’t been used, and started painting. I lost myself in painting and just felt happy. I realized that I forgot about feeling sorry for myself when I was creating art.
I hate cancer, but had I not been diagnosed, I wouldn’t have started painting again, not caring if sometimes I create bad art (which I do). Because of cancer, I am now on my third and most rewarding profession.
As a ten-year survivor of breast cancer-( and after a pandemic year),- it’s time to explore new and just have fun.
I would like to share my newest of my Gift series- Hound- just for fun!
my newest exploration- recycled art ( out of the sides of an old above ground swimming pool)
I love the colors and textures!
I began the 2020 pandemic as a cancer patient and went through treatments during the first several months. This heightened my isolation and continues to impact my art. I find myself drawn to mediums that have an impermanence to them. Pieces of ephemeral and delicate dried roses are not meant to survive. I started adding the written word to my work. Short poems to share loss, and add a layer of emotion to the visual story.
Even my photography, sometimes shot on film and never photoshopped, is a fleeting moment in time. And yet, when these mediums are used to create art they tell a story, show strength, and leave an impression – even if temporary. I hope my work inspires all who see it to cherish each moment.
Pamela is Executive director of Living Proof Exhibit. First diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and again in 2018, and in 2019, she continues to find joy in the arts.
SURVIVOR SINCE AUGUST 2007
I have been fortunate to travel frequently for work and pleasure. The call to create was never far from my mind and heart. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 I knew that I wanted to start documenting my travels. I found great joy behind the camera lens and discovered a passion for photography.
I blend my knowledge of design, art and color to take multiple photographs until I am satisfied with the results. My main goal is to capture beauty, stir your emotions and nurture your soul.
Recently I have begun sketching and painting again. My undergraduate degree is in Fine Arts so I have been trained in these processes. I am finding it rewarding to explore a variety of these medias again.
I am a co-founder of Living Proof Exhibit. I’m blessed with artistic friends who challenge my creativity and encourage me.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after my first child was born.
Life was hectic with working, caring for a new baby, and undergoing chemotherapy after undergoing a mastectomy. The outdoors has always been source of joy and relaxation, so when I had a free moment I would step outside with my camera to grab on shots of the beauty around me.
It was those quiet moments that took my mind off what was going on in my world. No matter how I felt, getting a great shot kept me positive and showed me all the beautiful thing in our world no matter how small.
Still today, as you see in my more current work, Mother Nature is still my inspiration.
College is a time of exploring and finding out what is important to you. In the fall of my sophmore year of college, my doctor informed me that my thyroid was enlarged. A year later, I was officially diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had my thyroid removed.
During this time, I decided to stay in school was my main priority. It was a challenge to focus on classes, yet this is the time I found out how important art was to me. I was a psychology major and beginning to question if I had chosen the right path.
Art was helping me get through my everyday struggles. I later came to realize that art was a necessity in my life, choosing to take a fifth year to follow this passion. I have now decided to go back for my teaching license so I can share my story with others and share my passion.
I am a two time cancer survivor; lymphoma in 2005 and prostate in 2017.
Since recovering from my stem cell transplant in 2006 I wake up each day grateful to be healthy and able to pursue my passion for nature photography. Despite my cancers I fell like the luckiest man in the world. Cancer has made me realize that tomorrow is promised to no one. It has made me realize that I have only a limited time to share my talent. I strive to make my works inspirational. Hopefully generations to come will enjoy a world even more beautiful than we have today.
We must protect our planet, it's the only one we've got. I want to thank Living Proof Exhibit for providing me with an avenue to share my thoughts and works with others.
Twenty-three years after treatment, my breast cancer experience is a reminder to enjoy life and do what I love. I hope my exhibited work sends the message that there is more to life after cancer than just survival; we are fully alive.
Covid has felt like a replay of my illness, but on a worldwide scale. How and when will this end? How will it change me? Will life ever be "normal" again?
I started this piece during the lowest point of the pandemic, politics, winter weather, and my creativity. I had a Joseph Cornell catalogue and a wooden box I found in an alley. I put things in the box and took a picture, over and over. Interestingly, the strict limitations of this process opened up a whole new world, with unexpected and surreal results--much like life with cancer or during the pandemic.
I chose watercolor, after years with charcoal and graphite, because it was said to be the hardest media. I knew if I could do this, I could do other medias- partially true! I was also about 47! Watercolor, as in anything creative, offers satisfaction and peace. I love its depth and fluidity.
In 2016, I was diagnosed with lung and breast cancer. Major surgery, chemo, and radiation ensued... then three years of infusions. In between, my daughter and I went to Italy. Many paintings have come from that and hopefully will be at Riverssance on sale!
In 2020, I was back to stage 4. In 2021, I was told there were no more treatments. I am terminal. It’s hard to explain this, but there has been a feeling of deep peace in my soul since then. No more fighting, I can just be and feel peace.
My faith tells me I am going home happily. I will see my family again in time. Nothing is lost, much is gained.
And, I’m still painting!
I am a very proud cancer survivor for over 14 years.
I am delighted to join this Exhibition. I believe in sharing my joy through my artistic expression, so that my audience will see my strength and love of life!
My drawing is created to bring joy to the audience.
My love of art-making started at a young age and was encouraged by my family throughout my early life.
Making are is what I love to do, and it makes me who I am. I had just retired from my job as an illustrator and graphic artist in 2015, when I was diagnosed with Stage 1, triple-positive, invasive ductal carcinoma. Retirement afforded me time to rest and heal, and I’m thankful that I recovered.
My cancer experience made me very aware of how fleeting time can be, and that the time for me to make art is now. Whether my subject matter is of the natural world, the human-made world, or abstract, it’s color and pattern that are the similar elements in my work.
I had always enjoyed sewing. I learned to design, piece, and finish quilts in the late 1990’s. In 2001, I started having trouble with my neck and a lump was found. The initial biopsy was negative for cancer and the doctor refused to remove the lump. On second opinion, it was removed and found to be cancerous with a rare, aggressive cancer.
My weeks of recovery were well spent in my quilting room. I lost myself to the material, patterns, and sewing while I listened to uplifting music and contemplated my life and how lucky I was to seek a second opinion.
Quilting is relaxing and enjoyable for me. I will always be grateful to the QC Quilt Guild for holding quilting classes for mothers and grandmothers of Head Start students.
As a child I was always drawing, coloring, painting, and creating. It was my thing.
As an adult life took over and my art was put aside. Married with three boys and a full-time job there was just no time for my art, although I squeezed in creativity when I could.
In 2008 cancer took over my life. Diagnosed with stage 3c melanoma, I spent all of my time and energy doing everything I could to live. It came back two more times.
No longer able to work, I found that I was bored and depressed. Then I found art again. Art gave me back my life. I am alive and I believe that’s what my art embodies. Joy, color, and above all life.
My "Visualization of Hope" painting allows me to express some of my deepest emotions. Painting itself allows me to go to a quiet place for hours on end and listen to what I need to paint that day. My Pandemic painting of many layers and textures shows a skull and Masks of Death spewing out evil. BUT, my "silver lining" shows the dove of peace and a cross holding the empty grave-cloth of Jesus.
These symbols remind me of the Hope and Faith that sustained us through four cancer battles. It was Memorial weekend when my husband and I were hospitalized and the ER doctor told our children. "Your parents are so critical you may lose both of them tonight." My silver lining is we didn't die.
Our faith was only strengthened by these incidents of life and death, and now I have a story of HOPE to tell others about surviving breast cancer and "Standing On the Lawn of Heaven."
The way I think, feel, live, dream, and create have all changed since cancer. I feel like those three years of hell completely changed who I am as a person. I am still finding myself again in my art. I am currently working with ceramics, silk painting, and public art painting. I discovered ceramic wheel throwing while recovering from Colon Cancer and the hypnotic effect of the pottery wheel zoned my mind into the craft so much that I forgot about my pain. Once I experienced that I couldn’t stop, and have been using ceramic art as a form of active meditation ever since.
The ghost of cancer is always with me, and could always come back and that made me very aware of not only my own mortality but that mortality of everything else. I have recently been obsessed with poisonous flowers and that subject matter has been infused in my painting and pottery.
I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in October 2020. I had surgery and began my radiation treatments in 2020, finishing them in February 2021. I leaned on my faith, my husband, and my family to get through it all, staying positive and upbeat. Cancer is like a roller-coaster ride. There are good days and challenging days. Treatments interfere with the normal day to day schedule, but life goes on, and you only get one life to live, so you need to live it to its fullest and make the most of each moment.
After completing my treatments, I started back to the art studio to fuse glass. I have a new appreciation for life! My cancer experience has changed my approach to art. I am learning new glass working techniques such as pate de vera and pattern glass. It’s exciting to try something new and I look forward to learning.
My journey started summer 2009. I'd just completed nursing school, was two days from going solo on the nursing floor and was getting ready for our annual vacation. After numerous tests, I had not one but three tumors, with one being rare for breast cancer.
A modified radical mastectomy and eight months of very aggressive chemo followed. Because of this, it's been a long hard road for me and my family.
Cancer took a lot away, but Living Proof Exhibit gave a lot back. Through Living Proof Exhibit, I started to draw, paint, and work on crafts again. Something I'd lost somewhere along life's journey. It gave me a place where I could escape, a place where cancer doesn't exist.
Living Proof Exhibit encourages creativity of all forms. Ways to escape the "new norm" of test, doctor’s appointments, treatments, and all that comes with battling cancer, to a "happy place." Cancer can never take that away from any of us!
I'm Living Proof!!!
Just when you think you’ve done it all, this 11-year breast cancer survivor found healing in art again in a pandemic.
Sitting on my porch, doing jigsaw puzzles, I noticed a gift. The sun had cast a shadow in the snow of my heart-shaped garden art- God's valentine for all who took the time to see it!
I also ventured into watercolor painting at a creative session in 2020 and then chose our color spun Easter eggs for my series of “Healing puzzles for cancer patients”.
With a comprehensive BFA degree in Graphic Design/Illustration, my previous work was realistic. Upon facing health issues, I needed an emotional outlet, resulting in my abstract work.
Cancer can be a journey filled with fear. But I decided my story was going to reflect my faith and trust. In many ways, this has been my hardest battle because of my complicated health history. My allergies ruled out chemo and follow-up medicine. I proclaimed “God, I need you to have my back”. He has.
My cancer was caught early because I listened to my gut. Mammograms and ultrasounds where clear, but my gut stopped me. I asked for an MRI. An hour later, I was told I had cancer. My gut had caught the cancer, early.
Surgical precautions included a total hysterectomy. Sudden menopause, so much to navigate! Luckily, my identical twin has none of my illnesses, that is a blessing!
I am a retired computer programmer, and a photographer living and working in Springfield, Illinois.
During my treatments for non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2008, I battled fatigue. Some days, my “accomplishment” for the day was to sit in my recliner and watch the patterns of sunlight cross the room. Through it all, I continued to hope for a better day, when I would be able to get up and go outside.
“Tomorrow, Maybe...” is my reflection on living with lymphoma. It is a statement of hope- however feeble- for a better day.
Art is a way for me to express the wonder and joy I feel in my heart and soul. Nothing can take away my inner spirit!
I had an advanced stage of breast cancer and went through aggressive treatment. After that journey, I realized, as a multi-media artist, that I wanted to share more of myself and my various creative artistic expressions as a way to inspire and uplift others’ lives with a renewed sense of hope and joy.
My cancer journey has opened my eyes to appreciate life and all of its majestic beauty. I enjoy using the camera as a tool to help me focus on aspects of life that can often be overlooked. I see the beauty in all of God’s creation.
When I look through the lens, my creative eye captures those very special moments in time.
They say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I hope my photographs reflect just that.