With this year’s Nobel Conference just around the corner, cancer is something in the minds of many on campus. Currently, the Hillstrom Museum of Art is exhibiting two art collections that coincide with the Nobel theme.
The collections, Artists Who Had Cancer: Works from the Hillstrom and Shogren-Meyer Collections and Cancer Never Had Me: Views by Artists, contain works from four students, seven alumni and many outside artists that represents their relationship and experience with cancer.
One artist whose work is being featured is Junior Studio Art major Gigi deGrood. Her painting was inspired by her dad’s cancer, which he was diagnosed with when deGrood was 16.
“When you get that news you don’t really tell many people about it because of the reaction you get, ‘I’m so sorry,’” deGrood said.
DeGrood poured her emotions into her painting instead, titled “No Cause to Mourn.”
“To paint cancer, that’s kind of difficult, there’s a lot of directions you can go and I didn’t want it to be sad or depressing, so I put my own spin on it,” deGrood said.
DeGrood’s painting features bright, layered circles full of color, which she explains is modeled after a closer look at cancer.
“I studied pictures of cancer cell slides…I made the painting abstract, with more of a sense of chaos with layering. I also wanted it to be big…as big as I can fit in the car, that’s kind of my rule,” deGrood said.
Junior Annalise Schaaf, who is studying art history and studio art, also contributed to Hillstrom’s Cancer Never Had Me exhibit. Her piece is titled “Colors of Cancer.”
“I decided to contribute to this exhibit because my grandma who adopted me at a young age has battled ovarian cancer and has relapsed several times. I made my piece based on the bravery and compassion I see in her and truly poured my soul into recognizing the amazing battle that cancer patients and survivors endure during treatment,” Schaaf said.
For Director of the Hillstrom Museum Don Myers, this exhibit has been something on his mind for two years, ever since he found out what the Nobel theme would be. While the fall exhibit does not always mirror the conference, he felt cancer was something that could be represented beautifully through art.
“I am delighted when we can come up with something that will really dovetail with Nobel.”
Myers noted that the current display in Hillstrom is two exhibits– one which includes art by students, alumni and other artists, and the second containing many older pieces of work by artists who passed away from cancer.
“Many of those are from 1950 or earlier…and contain notable names such as Grant Wood, who died of cancer. It’s a theme that affects everyone,” Myers said.
Myers also got a first-hand look at the art, being one of the people who helps install new exhibits, but that did not dull down the emotional reaction to the art for him.
“I think it’s a gut punch,” Myers said.
For deGrood, scientific advancements in medicine have given her a lot of hope and a more positive outlook.
“Thanks to doctors it’s really not as deadly as we think it is‒my dad didn’t respond to chemo, and we had to get a new treatment and it’s been working,” deGrood said.
“You don’t really know the value of your life until you have to fight for it,” deGrood said.
Artists Who Had Cancer: Works from the Hillstrom and Shogren-Meyer Collections and Cancer Never Had Me: Views by Artists will be available for viewing until Nov. 8.
The Hillstrom Museum of Art is located on the lower floor of the Jackson Campus Center, down the hall from Health Services. It is currently open for drop-in visits from students and employees from 9 a.m.– 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 p.m.– 5 p.m. on weekends. Off-campus parties interested in visiting must be invited as guests in order to adhere to pandemic protocol.