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Cancer + Art

When Anderson Artists Guild member JoAnne Anderson underwent cancer treatment in 2001, she had two key survival tools: humor and art.

Friends supplied the humor, especially in a send-off ceremony for Anderson’s left breast before surgery. “We called the one that was lost Sweet Chariot; the one I have left is Swing Low,” she said. Up in the mountains, they released a papier mache breast tied to balloons and sent it towards heaven as they sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” However, a gust of wind caused it to get caught in a tree, adding to the hilarity.

When it came to treatment, Anderson dealt with the anxiety as she waited—and waited—in doctors’ offices and hospitals by drawing in her sketchbook. She captured the other patients waiting with her who were sitting in chairs, reading, knitting, snacking, walking around, sleeping, even a man in a Christmas hat. That last one, she muses, says it all: “Be of good cheer.” Her message is one of hopefulness in the face of despair.

And the familiar act of putting pencil to paper helped ease her fears. “You kind of lose yourself in that kind of drawing,” she said. “I was more interested in what the pencil was doing and what it was identifying than anything else. It definitely helped me.”

Anderson was asked by a fellow cancer survivor to include her 20 pen and ink and watercolor sketches in an art show about dealing with cancer through art. Their first show was held several years ago in Greenville and is currently on exhibit at the Anderson Arts Center through October 31. The show is called Direct Experience: Cancer + Art. It also features a solo show by AAG member Ruth Hopkins in the atrium.

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