A NEW BEGINNING. I have an art education up to degree level and was working as an artist and maker part time, also providing children’s art workshops and as a teaching assistant in schools for many years up until my diagnosis. My work prior to breast cancer diagnosis was fairly successful, many exhibitions and works sold. The old me would never had been courageous enough to have produced pieces about myself.
We all know what happens next! The torturous Chemotherapy, the burning of the Radiotherapy, the endless appointments, the side effects that people don’t mention and having to be available to fit in with their appointment regime. I now was part of the system. I was getting angry, sad, confused, hurt, angry, losing control, worthless, scared and lots more. I felt the need to record what was happening to me, initially not very diligently.
I began to seek help. A visit to a local cancer hospice provided a variety of much needed financial and general cancer advice, therapies, counseling etc. It all resulted in a new me. I started to think more deeply about myself and the world around me. Alongside this I began recording everything that was happening to me. It also helped chatting to Sophie Sabbage, her advice to me was to be the best artist I could possibly be. Notes, photos, sketches. Work began, slowly at first but then gathered momentum, like a snowball rolling faster and faster down a steep hill getting larger as it goes.
Working in isolation in my now condemned art studio I began new work. Now an old shed is my womb-like sanctuary at the bottom of the garden. I became more and more prolific. Only my husband was allowed to see my work. I kept it hidden. Four years on and I was still going to The Christie every three weeks for treatment. I picked up a magazine there that had an article about the Breast Cancer Art Project. It took me a while to get the courage to send a tentative email but an understanding and encouraging email came back. Due to putting my work on this site I now have the courage to enter my work into exhibitions and have shown in Norwich, Altrincham, West Yorks and through the BCAP exhibition in Cambridge and the Fruit Fly Collective I also showed my work in the Tate Modern!
I have become a member of Castlefield Gallery Associates as I am now courageous enough to start talking about my practice, as I do not want to work in isolation anymore. My new work is autobiographical. I want it to be thought provoking, interesting and challenging. Due to having been in art education I am able to call upon different techniques that I feel are appropriate for the type of work I am producing.
I have produced a series based on the things some medical professionals say. I am a member of a Facebook cancer group and this topic arises frequently and makes us very angry. I would like my work to challenge these medical professionals to “Think before they speak.” It would be a result if some medical professionals were shown the work of the Breast Cancer Art Project to help them see us a real people and not just ‘anatomy.’
It is very difficult to get art as psychological care correct. I have attended an art group within a hospital and due to their physical constraints, too many people for the size of the room, only one technique was provided and artwork that didn’t challenge cancer was positively encouraged. Which is fine but I very quickly realised this art group was not for me. I personally didn’t want to use art as a way to escape the horrors I was going through. I needed to use it as a weapon. I personally have never used art therapy to work through any personal trauma, perhaps this is because there is a lack of funding in this area, as if it had been available, I would have utilised it.
The Breast Cancer Art Project in my opinion has, I think, got it right. They have allowed me to express myself without censorship, barriers or judgement. I am able to show my work in a safe environment, they provide a platform for me to share thoughts, feelings and even art techniques.
It is my personal need to produce this autobiographical work. I do not judge others if they do not wish to produce cancer related artwork and because of this I would expect others not to judge me for creating this work. The need to communicate and educate is massively important to me and being part of The Breast Cancer Art Project has allowed this to happen. It has shown me that there is a possibility of something positive can come from all this misery and distress.