Posted by: jeanne | November 17, 2008

cancer art 7

i’m in a little church choir with jim because they’re singing bach and he wants to. so fine. i had quit my choir because of my fatigue problems. it’s a quality of life issue, and when you’re not enjoying something you’re passionate about, it’s time to give it a rest.

anyway, they asked for prayers in the end, and two different people got up and said that their loved ones, who’ve already survived cancer, went in for some complaint and they did exploratory or emergency surgery, and found them riddled with it. and my comment was that they’d had several really good years after the first diagnosis, right? and that would have to be good enough.

this speaks directly to the question of how cancer can be a good thing. i’ll get there real soon now with a post. it’s also part of the yet-to-be written post ‘how has your art helped you cope with your cancer’ which is part of a grant application i’m trying to write (having no deadine makes it difficult to get around to. that and the emotional issues).

i always take these kinds of news as omens. two metastases in one blow; i might be the third. it sounds silly to write about it, but the stab of fear is real. and it’s always what i’ve been saying happens once you get cancer. all this talk of a cure is meaningless when you’re ‘cured’ when they excise a tumor. that’s bullshit.

i could tell, when i got massive hematoma on my left breast right after they’d done surgery to remove a bunch of little tumorettes on my right breast, before the mastectomy. i say i could tell that the hematoma, some still-open vein or artery or capillary system that continued to bleed in the hours after they stitched me up and sent me home. i say that the hematoma was brimful of little cancer cells they’d disturbed while clawing around in my chest looking for pinhead sized lumps. i say that the blood was full of cancer cells, and that they spread thruout my body at that time.

i’m also saying that this is normal, because cancer cells are everywhere and they’re usually just gathered up and eaten by something in our blood. this takes care of things until cancer colonizes some place and starts to be fruitful and multiply. that’s why talk of a cure is misleading at best, and lies damned lies in the hands of the cancer industry.

the next day i had a bruise the size of your head in the middle of my chest. in the days that followed, most of my left breast turned purple. then green. colors i’m using in my painting.

oh, i just now realized that the acid green and the dioxizine purple i like to use in my painting are actual colors that occur on bodies but not on healthy bodies. on broken and sick bodies. and so they’re entirely appropriate to use in the shadows of this painting.

which makes what i did today all the more problematic. today i ignored my plan to put purple on, and went for the white. i am still learning how to mix paints from pigments and oil, and the stuff was too runny yesterday. today i decided i would put on white in the body parts. not white, certainly not straight white, but white mixed in with a colored pigment. thus the nasty pasty white i’m so not fond of.

i took a couple of knife tips full of titanium white powder and a couple of more tips of yellow ochre. i mixed the powders trying to see if the yellow would be dilute enough, or the white would be strong enough. there’s no telling when it’s just powder. so i added a little oil. and it was a hard lump of badly blended bricklike mud. so i added more oil and it was enough, and the lump turned to paste, then batter. i added a little turpentine and it became runny, and then i added some blended oil and chalk, and it stiffened up some. it’s that easy, but it’s not at all easy. i am struggling with why my handmade paints are runny and the tube colors are so thick and luxurious. it must be the chalk or some other filler like marble dust. it can’t be because everything i touch turns to shit.

eventually i had a golden white that would do for a light skin tone. except it bore no relation to the other colors. it went on as a correction-fluid kind of white, only thinner. so i ended up putting it over every bit of her skin, scumbling white into the shadows and in the hair. i even put on the first bit of plaid.


the background got darkened by a mixture of burnt umber and ultramarine blue with way loads of liquid. and then it was too much so i lifted it with a rag. it’ll add texture when i go over it a few more times.

i want to put texture in the skirt to go with the sticky-out  textured bra. looking at it, feel like i want to cut recesses in the folds of the skirt, so that you could reach in from the front side. imagine being on the back side, trying to fit yourself into the bra, the mirror, and the wrist restraints, and someone reaches in and starts groping you. and this would be about…the way women’s fashion just invites you to lift the skirt and feel around. but how shocking if people reacted to the symbolism of clothes instead of observing decorum. here’s a rule i’ve learned. the shyest people wear the most flamboyant clothing, because they can hide behind it and avoid exposing themselves.

putting white and chalk and ochre on the skin, i ended up putting it over all the skin. It’s a little transparent, obscures the drawing a little. getting rid of some of the drawing lines is good.


the hardened bra, it was still wet against the plastic, so i turned it upside down and put it on a roll of paper towels so the breast form would poke up and keep the bra filled. a thin layer of the hardener does the trick gives me a stiff shell, fragile but holding.

i’ve been deciding to cut between the front edge and the inside workings. the bra is going to overlap the canvas by half an inch, and i’m going to be able to sew the two pieces together without it showing on the front. later i can stitch pink ribbon onto the front, but it can’t be that visible from the back, where the catgut is the point.

there’s still something wrong with the underlying drawing. the shoulder joint bothers me, but so does the waistline. there’s something very off about the top of her hips being so small. something. and her head’s too big. the bra is still going to overwhelm all other proportions so we still have to wait and see.

i’ll cut it soon, but pin it in. i’m fantasizing how i’ll ask my surgeon’s nurses to get the doctor to steal some supplies for me. but she gave me an old stethoscope for a ‘decorate the fiberglass 4 foot animal’ fundraiser.

now the figure is chalky white. now it won’t look right unless i use white in all the skin tones i put back on. this is going to hurt.

funny how she looks green in the face. she looks like the wicked witch of the west at this stage.


  1. Morning Jeanne:

    I think you have her skin done awesome. The green in her face reminds me of so many people when I go in the chemo room, that colour could be good for the flip side of the face.

    I laughted at everthing I touch turns to shit. That is a big obviously not.

    How old is your grandchild? I have one granddaughter and she is 17 months. Such a joy.

    Love Renee

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