I don’t know a thing about art. All I know is how it makes me feel. But I haven’t let that stop me from exploring this aw-inspiring means of expression. No way. In the last few years I have been attending art shows and gallery receptions, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that art is always about so much more than art.
Regardless of the name of the exhibit, the theme of the show, or even the title of a painting, creative expression far exceeds any label we may attach to it.
Art is all about life.
And boy did I learn that this past week. I hardly know where to begin, so I’ll start at the start.
Meet Patricia Izzo, award-winning Fine Arts Photographer and painter.
Patricia’s a pretty heavy hitter in the art world. Her fine art photography has been featured in numerous national publications like American Photo Magazine, Home Décor, and Woman’s Day, just to name a few. And her images can be seen in the 2010 Harold and Kumar III movie. She’s had extensive exhibits throughout the Detroit Metropolitan area, the East Coast, and Traverse City Museums, and she published a fine art photography book called, “FRAGILE AWAKENINGS” in 2008. She’s a board member or is active in, just about anything that promotes the arts. She creates it, teaches it, promotes it, changes it, advances it, and shares it with children. And she is the artist-in-residence at River’s Edge Gallery, right here in Wyandotte, Michigan.
I see her as a compassionate woman, a creative genius, and a . . . well, a sort of spiritual guide.
I run into Patricia at the DOWNRIVER COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS (DCA), in Wyandotte, and she tells me about her involvement in an upcoming art show there, called, “ART HEALS”.
She mentions something about some art classes, some kids, and the Josephine Ford Cancer Center, and I eagerly agree to meet her there the following week.
I think I’m just going to watch a couple of art classes and, then at the end of the week, go to an art show. But Patricia is a little bit sneaky . . . she is going to take me on a life changing journey instead. I just don’t know it yet.
As I drive to meet her the following Tuesday, I am flooded in memories of my small encounter with cervical cancer over 20 years ago, my subsequent surgery and cure, and the fear that I still feel all these years later when going for a pap test. I think of my sister who passed away six years ago from lung cancer, of my friend who lost her breasts, and my other dear friend who lost her mom. I think of my childhood friend who is currently undergoing chemotherapy right here at this facility, and how I’ve never visited her during her treatment. Sheesh. How did I not think of all of this earlier? I blink back the tears and swallow hard to get the lump in my throat . . . down.
I arrive at my first visit to the Josephine Ford Cancer Center to observe the Children’s Support Group as they gather to make paintings for the upcoming art show.
My photographs are limited to the art and the creative process, so I hope you enjoy them! And hospital gowns are worn as smocks so the acrylic paints won’t stain clothes.
The room isn’t gloomy and dark with talk of pain or cancer. The kids lighten me and I am blown away by their incredible wisdom and insight, and their uncanny ability to remain silly and playful. I take their full impact head-on and heart-full.
Hands this small should never need to know the word cancer.
Below is a photo of each child’s artwork both in progress, and as displayed at the “ART HEALS” exhibition. I will let the art speak for itself.
Painting: “STRENGTH”, by artist Alex Rupp.
Painting: “FLOWER CHILD”, by artist Amanda Rupp.
Painting: “ME”, by artist Chad Donahue.
Painting: “PLAY”, by artist Evan McKeith.
Painting: “POSITIVE”, by artist Jadem McKeith.
Painting: “FIGHT CANCER”, by artist Jared Sturdz.
Painting: “GO TEAM CANCER”, by artist Marissa Lewandowski.
Painting: “REACH YOUR GOLE”, by artist Melissa Rupp.
Painting: “VICTORY”, by artist Rachel Sturdz.
The oldest artist in the class is 18 years old and wears this message on her t-shirt (front and back):
She also creates the “FLOWER CHILD” painting. I just adore this girl! I think we are soul sisters!
As the day draws to a close, Patricia casually invites me to a Women’s Art Therapy Class that is meeting on Thursday. Their art will also be displayed at Thursday night’s show. Of course, I am interested and once again, I agree to meet her at the Josephine Ford Cancer Center.
And once again, I am unprepared for the creativity of the artists, and the spirituality and power of very wise and humorous women. The short time I spend with them is enough to cause marvel at their uniqueness, and be affected by all .
I title this photograph, “Beautiful Warriors”. True strength does not have to be loud and hard; these women are kind, compassionate, and incredibly strong. “It is the rain that grows flowers, not the thunder.”
Artists, Left to right: Sue Spotts, Ruth Ann Brayman, Nancy Pitel (artist who subs as teacher), Patricia Izzo, Shirley McBroom, Brenda Kahn, (not pictured, Deborah Helton).
The artists and their work at the “ART HEALS” exhibition:
Painting: “PEARL EARRINGS”, by artist Sue Spotts. Sue has discovered her enormous talent only in recent years and is humble and casual about it. She says of my writing craft, “you’re just using a different brush”. I love that. A very gentle and humorous warrior.
Painting: “MEDITATION GARDEN”, by artist Ruth Ann Brayman. Ruth gives glory to God by hiding a cross in each of her beautifully detailed paintings. She has the most lovely eyes; painted like an early summer morning blue sky misted by a light fog. A sweet and loving warrior.
Painting: “CABIN IN THE MEADOW”, by artist Shirley McBroom. Shirley’s incredible artwork shows perception, depth, and a wonderful natural talent with shadows. She reluctantly agrees to this photo, although she is as lovely as her painting. A warm and gracious warrior.
Painting: “EXHALING HOPE”, by artist Brenda Kahn. Brenda hiked 8.5 miles around the mountainous trails shown in this painting. We talk briefly, but intimately, and I realize that I, too, am a cancer survivor. My eyes brim with tears. She welcomes me warmly and somehow, I feel honored to be included in such elegant company. A gentle and graceful warrior.
Painting: “KAYAK CALLING”, by artist Deborah Helton. Debbie is currently working on a painting of a cabin she has up north in the woods. We bond in agreement that it, “looks like a small piece of Heaven!” She herself is like a delicate, but strong flower that one might find growing in the shade of a beautifully wooded piece of paradise. A soft and kind warrior.
Completing the “ART HEALS” exhibition, are paintings created by the children of the SandCastles Children’s Grief Support Group.
And from the mouths of babes . . .
After visiting with the artists and with other admirers such as myself, I go home with my creative hungers satisfied and my heart full. I feel blessed and grateful.
On Friday morning I rise, tired, but still basking in the afterglow and glory of an incredible week and amazing people.
But my day begins early today.
Once again I walk into the Josephine Ford Cancer Center. My friend smiles and says, “Oh, Julia, you made it! It’s so good to see you!”
I swear she’s got the elegance of Grace Kelly.
Soon, we celebrate that her lab numbers are up and while she is getting her chemo, we spend the time in intimate chat and laughter. I treasure the moment and mark it as forever precious.
I look over at her and smile.
I have come full circle. What a journey.
A special thank you to Patricia Izzo, all the artists, the Downriver Council for the Arts, and the wonderful staff at the Josephine Ford Cancer Center, for welcoming me and graciously allowing me to share in your magic. You are all a treasured surprise and have deeply touched me. I hope that I have done you justice; I fear that I have not.
The words have yet to be created for those as wonderful as you.