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Art therapy is based on the idea that the creative process is healing for people who experience illness, trauma or challenges in living. People who participate in art therapy during cancer treatment report decreased anxiety and focus on pain, more energy, a sense of well-being and enhanced abilities to cope with stress. Even if making art does not come naturally, most people feel comfortable and relaxed when working with our art therapist. Some are surprised by what they are moved to create.

Each year, we collect and display fresh art pieces created by our patients and people who love them in the Cancer Center Patient Art Gallery (located on third floor of the Clinical Cancer Center at Froedtert Hospital). There is always something inspiring and unexpected to see – you can view the work of our amazing artists and read about their creative process in our digital gallery below.

Additional Artist Information

Artist: Yelena Patskevich
Title of Piece: Winter Joy
Media: Oil on Gallery Canvas

I perceive a massive array of colors and, while painting, try to express them the same way I see them. Something as simple as a raindrop glows with many shades of blue, yellow and purple. It’s through colors that I pass on my emotions and character to those viewing my work.

Yelena Patskevich is a local Milwaukee artist. She specializes in pastel and oil paint. Yelena was born in Moscow and, by age 11, she applied her skills and imagination to create a variety of paintings and developed a lifelong love for art. Starting in 2009, Yelena began to dedicate herself to painting full time. To Yelena, painting is more than a hobby; it’s a way of life, and her passion is visible in every brushstroke. Yelena possesses a unique sensitivity to colors and hues, which she incorporates into her art. She has exhibited her art work in Moscow and throughout the United States, winning awards and selling her work.

Artist: Bobbi Voss
Title of Piece: Meditation Sunset
Media: Dyes on silk and quilting

Sunsets over Big Portage Lake have calmed my spirit for years. Fresh air, scent of pine trees, eagles soaring and loons calling remind me of a beautiful place in the Land O’ Lakes.

Artist: Julie Briede Ibar
Title of Piece: The Green and Red Pillow
Media: Oil on board

Art is simply something I am compelled to do. For many, art is therapeutic, and I encourage others to find the benefits in creating and exploring art materials. Our border collie, Petey, is always by my side. He provides companionship and adds joy to my life. I wanted to capture that feeling of rest and contentment as I watched him settle in on a soft white blanket. The patterned pillow provided contrast and texture in the painting.

Artist: Glenn Gierzycki
Title of Piece: Light at the End of the Tunnel
Media: Oil on Gallery

My sister is Karen Gersonde. She is battling Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. I can’t even imagine what that is like. I guess until you go through something like that, it is hard to wrap your head around it. I just know she is brave, strong and fearless and will fight it until the end. Both she and I enjoy photography. We share photos, tips and hints and help each other with any photo dilemmas we may have, even though we live miles apart from each other. I took this photo of the Cedarburg covered bridge. It was taken in black and white and I gave it a pink hue in honor of breast cancer awareness for all of the good people out there fighting breast cancer. Many of those patients will see light at the end of the tunnel or bridge, as they will beat their cancer and survive. They made it through the tunnel to see the light of day and live another day. For others, however, the light will come to symbolize something very different. They have fought with all their might and now have crossed over to see the light of eternal life. Everyone has their own bridges and tunnels to go through during life – not for only cancer but for all of the everyday struggles one has to endure on this earth. Be strong! For only then can you see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Artist: Lena Napoleon-Baker
Title of Piece: Fight Cancer
Media: Colored pencils on paper

I’m not an artist but when my sister went through chemo, to motivate her, we told her to fight! Fight hard, you can do it. And it made her really fight. We thought it gave her strength and helped her to cope and deal with everything. With the art therapy, when I was drawing this picture, it kind of had some healing qualities. It reminded me of the scarf she wore on her head after losing her hair. It helped me to deal with my grief, and I thought putting on boxing gloves was so appropriate because that’s the way you have to fight cancer.

Artist: Alysia Owczarki
Title of Piece: Cancer Houses
Media: Mixed 

There are so many people who affect our lives. Though life is not guaranteed, we can at least appreciate what others before us have taught us by living and being here. These are samples of how each cancer has affected my family. When any of these disorders hit, it hits home. Each one of these homes has a story, some sad, some amazing, some so inspirational that it is truly an honor to know about their journeys. I am so grateful to have had so many amazing people in my life that did not live their lives according to their diseases. I find their strength and character more inspirational than anything. — Done in honor of my husband, David Owczarski, Sept. 13, 2020

Colors of Cancer and Disorders that Affect My Family 

White - Lung Orange - Leukemia
Teal - Ovarian Light Blue - Prostate
Yellow - Childhood Black - Skin
Purple - Pancreatic Pink - Breast
Teal/Pink/Blue - Thyroid Zebra - Carcinoid/Neoendcrine
Peacock - Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia  

Artist:  Belinda Ricco
Title of Piece: On Being Blue No More
Media: Mixed  

"On Being Blue No More" a poem

Thought I was clever

Then lost my zest

(lost my blue breasts)

The smart ones survive

(at what cost?)

Voice

(lost that too along in the blue)

Brilliant

To have a voice

(once more I still long for…)

Eyes twinkled

Eyes brightened

Enthusiasm

(lost and long for)

(just)

Being

(once more).

Artist: Natasha Onco Warrior Gerlova
Title of Piece: My Journey
Media: Mixed  

I walk into the dry and burning Desert of the Unknown. Measuring tools seem to surround me as I must be tested often. A firm foundation built on Faith and Hope enables me to face the devastation that has torn the fabric of my life. This journey takes me on strange paths through healing territories that are both beautiful and dangerous. Time is my silent companion treatment; add up anniversaries and wonder about the future. I walk. I run. I climb. I tire. I pray. I fall down. I cry. I rest. I get up. I go on. I fall and rise again. I grow in serenity and courage and wisdom. Some tears, like drops of holy water, are left along the way. The last one falls on this side of the door through which I shall pass into the place of my beautiful ending where all will be well.

Artist: Gretchen Gill
Title of Piece: Zero to Ten
Media: Mixed 

“Zero to Ten” was inspired by my mother’s frustration with the pain scale, an essential but seemingly absurd clinical tool. She would ask with disdain, “How am I supposed to rate my pain when my back is a nine, my ribs are a five, and my right shoulder is an eight? To say nothing of my arthritis from old age!” The arbitrary shapes and colors of the scale represent her mind scrambling for the answer. As a physician, she knew the significance of monitoring the relative efficacy of analgesics and other pain-relieving therapies. However, in the midst of a deeply frightening and emotionally charged experience, describing physical pain with numbers often exacerbated her discomfort, leaving her feeling overwhelmed and unheard. Her body is shown displaced, illustrating frequent shifts in clinical focus by the treatment team in their heroic efforts to alleviate her most critical issues from one visit to the next.

Artist: Shereen Elahi
Title of Piece: Untitled
Media: Mixed 

“My daughter (Shereen Elahi) painted a book that was given to her by the day hospital in the cancer center, in honor of my cancer recover/survival. It took her over a month to do all of the pages." - Mohammad Elahi

Artist: Karen Gersonde
Title of Piece: The Beauty Within
Media: Digital Photo 

I have been entered in this Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Patient Art Gallery since its inception a few years ago. Since last year, my cancer has reached Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. It is now terminal, and there is no cure. I know that and have accepted that, although I still am not happy about it nor will I ever be. But I have decided that I am not dying from cancer, I am living with it. Yes, I am being treated by the good doctors of this hospital, and it has been stable for over a year now. For me that is a very good thing. I hope this trend continues, as it will allow me to live a full life until the end. To cope with my situation, I enjoy traveling and doing photography. And yes, I do stop in the Patient Art Gallery here when it is open on occasion. It is a welcome respite from all of the bad things that are happening in my life. But photography is my passion. This butterfly was photographed up in Door County at the Ridges Sanctuary. The butterflies were out in full force that day and the sun was shining just right when I captured this shot. The sun was actually shining through its wings. And in a blink of an eye, it took off, and it was gone. Had it not been for cancer and photography, I may have walked right by this beautiful creature. I am glad I did not. Cancer teaches you to appreciate everything around you, every minute, every hour and every day. Take nothing for granted. Because I know that in a blink of an eye, I may be gone from this earth forever. And I will never again witness all the beauty this earth has to offer.

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