CURE® Calendar Contest Winners Channel Cancer-Related Emotions Into Artwork

Several CURE® Calendar Contest winners explain the stories behind their winning artwork and how their artmaking helped them through the difficulties of cancer.

After selecting 12 winners for its annual calendar artwork contest, CURE® spoke with several of the winners about their artwork, what inspired it and how they use art as a therapeutic strategy to deal with the difficulties brought on by cancer.

The winning artwork – created through a variety of mediums including mixed media, digital painting, oil painting, photography and more – is deeper than simply a pleasant viewing experience. The pieces hold slivers of insight into lives impacted by cancer.

“I have to admit this particular painting was a joyful painting,” said winner Lora Stern. “Some are easier to paint than others, but I've always loved painting and it's created a space where I can go and find peace or quiet or joy.”


Chelsey Gomez: So I one day was thinking about the feeling that you get when you have a good scan – it doesn't even have to be clear, (it) could just be a good scan. And from somebody who's gotten so many bad scans, just the feeling that you get walking out of a doctor's appointment, hearing something positive, is just a feeling that I could never describe. It's a relief, it's unbelievable. Like, you just can't believe (it), you want to skip out the door. And so, when thinking about going through cancer, a lot of times people feel that people aren't there for them. But there are people who are there for you. And those people, despite bad results, make you feel like clear scans do. And so that's my inspiration is hey, even if you're metastatic, or you're not getting it done to get better, you can surround yourself with people who make you feel like clear scans do.

Alex Skoczen: I had my kids and grandkids, (who) met us in O’ahu, Hawaii and I would get up at three or four in the morning all the time, because (of the) time change, I go out and do my shooting. So I finally got my daughter, one of my grandsons to come with me early in the morning. And so we went up to the lookout in O’ahu, and it's a gorgeous area where it's super, super windy. And chilly. It’s high up. And I just set it up and did a bunch of shots and I got my photo.

Cynde Wilson: Well, my grandmother was an artist. Well, all of her life that I knew of. She lived in Oklahoma; I think was born probably around the early 1900s. And she actually taught art and had a ceramic studio and taught china painting. And so, when I was a little girl, probably eight or nine years old, I had a paintbrush in my hand. And I learned a little bit from her. And of course, she passed when I was a young, early married adult and I painted a little bit then. And then as we had our daughter and life goes on and I had to work full time, I gave it up for about probably almost 50 years. And just in the last year and a half or so I've gotten back into it. And it has been my therapy.

I'm all the time on Facebook, we have some great groups that post their photography work around the state of Wyoming which I live in – a beautiful area, we have gorgeous mountains and wildlife all around us. And I've lived here basically all my life, as has my husband, he was he was born here. I didn't get here till I was (in) kindergarten. But I found this – I see pictures that people have posted their photography work and I contact them and ask them if they would allow me to use their photographs as reference material because it's good to have something. I guess I kind of copy or use (it) as inspiration. I grew up on a ranch so I'm very familiar with horses and cows and the Wyoming wildlife. So I reached out to this gentleman who posted the picture on I think it’s this site called “Wyoming Through the Lens.” And he was very gracious to let me use his photograph. And it's actually of some horses over in the Dubois area, which is a little town just over the mountain from me probably, by the way the crow flies, it's probably only about 60 or 80 miles over to Dubois. And he's a retired person like me who's just kind of into his art form, which is photography. And so, we got talking and learned that we had quite a bit in common and he said, “Sure you can use my photographs.” So I painted the horses and sent it to him and he said he thought it was really good and it looked a lot like his photographs.

Randy Shattenkirk: Actually, one of the classes I had with the teacher …, that teaches one of the classes, we talk about our feelings, you know, and then we kind of put them down in any form we want. Some people write poetry, some people do art. And that day, I remember vividly, I was talking about doctors not getting back to me and side effects. And one thing after another, you know, you're in remission, but there's all these side effects, and you know, what now? And all these things popping up. So, I immediately thought of the road signs, the directional signs. I was at work at the time, so I was sitting at my computer, so I just did the words, you know, kind of how I was feeling. And printed this out – that’s why it was black and white – at work. And then, when we had the assignment, when I was told about the contest, I started thinking of the road sign, and then how I felt that day. Which, I got answers, I felt better – it was weeks later. I printed out a new one, with the little UM and the waves, I just felt like it's just, you know, constant up and down. Storm, waves, one day, you're good. One day, you're bad. You never know kind of day to day. And I learned how to gel print with a gel plate and I made with different tools, all the different textures. And I just kind of collaged them together. Of course I added my heart leaves that I have in my collection.

Lora Stern: It was interesting at the time of the diagnosis, COVID-19 was hitting, and (I was) just trying to keep everything in perspective. And when I saw this photo of our great granddaughter, we had yet to meet her in person – it just spoke. I had to paint that painting. And it brought such joy and hope. And I think it brings a peacefulness too, and so that's why I painted it. And I have to admit this particular painting was a joyful painting. Some are easier to paint than others, but I've always loved painting and it's created a space where I can go and find peace or quiet or joy.

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