by Giuseppina Maria Manganelli (Italy)

“Fragility”  is a mixed media artwork which gives insight into my experience as a cancer patient. It is a means through which I  have my say and let other cancer fighters know that people understand them.

The use of different media symbolizes the desire to convey a message in as many ways as possible. The message of the painting is that a cancer victim can find their way through  illness thanks to the supportive relationship with fellow patients.

I started working on “Fragility”  at the end of  my “journey”, that is after having undergone breast surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

The art work is a vertical canvas on which I have placed objects, photos and printed words as well as on which I have written a poem and a sentence taken from a song.  The two acrylic colours are highly meaningful: a dull grey on the bottom which blends smoothly with a bright yellow on the upper part of the canvas.  Grey is associated with loss and depression while yellow stands  for positivity.

On the bottom right some medical  instruments stand out and keep you staring: a syringe, an IV tubing and a blood collection tube. The use of real objects is a way of focusing attention on the pain experienced during my illness and a way of making my pain tangible.

In the middle on the bottom part of the canvas you can see colourful pictures of cancer cells,  those malicious cells that grow out of control; the bright colours ironically heighten the importance of the cells, the crucial starting point of the illness.

On the bottom left I have placed cut out words on different levels  forming the sentence “A wicked and wild wind tried to wipe me out.” The words are not placed linearly in order to represent the downfall in a cancer patient’s life.  Around the cutout words vanishing brushstrokes  enhance the idea of the “wiping out power” of cancer. 

Under the the pictures of the cancer cells the same sentence is written; a thin point black marker has been used to emphasize how ephemeral life is in a cancer patient’s life.

On middle of the canvas there are  some of the text messages my fellow travelers and I wrote to each other. The messages convey  a feeling of solidarity among cancer victims thanks to mutual  empathy, an important part in the healing process.

M poem, “Fragility” (see below also), written in English and Italian, dominates the upper part of the canvas. One is written is a green bold point felt pen and one in a purple bold point felt pen. The thick point of the marker here indicates a cancer warrior’s boldness and  fearlessness. Green and violet harmonize well with the yellow background.  The poem  highlights that the strength and understanding cancer patients  get from others  facing the same nightmare: during chemotherapy sessions “fellow patients”, fearless and shameless, express their “communal fragility” and so they find their serenity for a moment.

Finally, the most interesting item is on the bottom-left corner of the canvas: a qr code  which accesses a video I have made dealing with my cancer journey. This video can also be viewed below.

The poem


Ti sei insinuata in ogni meandro del mio cuore e della mia mente.

Ti ho faticosamente nascosta

dietro una bella maschera,

un sorriso solare,

una voce risoluta,

uno sguardo profondo

e vestiti eleganti.

Quando prendevi il sopravvento, di nascosto, lasciavo le lacrime accarezzare il mio viso.

Presto, nei lunghi e frequenti incontri con i miei compagni di viaggio

ho compreso che vivevi anche in loro.

 Senza paura o vergogna ti svelavamo e trovavamo la nostra serenità’.


You creeped into every meandre of my heart and mind.

I painfully kept you hidden behind

 a lovely mask,

 a cheerful smile,

 a headstrong voice,

 a lively eye

and an elegant apparel.

Soon, in the long and frequent sessions with my fellow travellers

I understood that you lived in them too.

Fearless and shameless, we revealed you  and we  found our serenity.

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