Survivor's feelings reflected in paintings

A dozen paintings were shown at Rooks Park as part of the annual Gran Fondo.

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Artwork by cancer survivors was shown in Rooks Park as part of the Gran Fondo.

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WALLA WALLA -- Tucked away under a picnic shelter in Rooks Park, at about the halfway point of a 4.1-mile walk, for the second year straight, participants in this year's Gran Fondo were treated to an art gallery.

But the 12 paintings that hung up at the outdoor exhibit on Saturday were not all the most marketable art pieces in the world.

Though each painting was masterfully created, that fact was many of the paintings dealt with the harsh realities of being a cancer survivor.

"Sometimes an expression can be disturbing, but it is all for the purpose of communicating the experience," oncology social worker Barbara Bates said.

She is also the class leader for Creative Expressions, an art class for cancer survivors that is therapeutic in that it helps those with cancer to express in another way what they are feeling inside.

Of the 12 paintings that were displayed, nothing was truly macabre or disturbing, like what an older generation might remember from Rod Serling's Night Gallery.

But there were some paintings of lonely, unbalanced faces posed in introspective looks that left the viewer feeling they were most likely self-portraits of a survivor.

Other paintings tended to be centered on landscape scenes.

Even these seemed at times solemn and lonely in their focus -- quite different from the works of art that would normally be hung over a couch.

Bates pointed out this is art for the purpose of giving the survivor another avenue to communicate what or she is feeling inside, not to sell at a farmer's market.

"When they are done, they probably put them away in a closet, because as I said it is the process more than the final product," she added.

None of the paintings was signed, which Bates explained is to protect the artist's right to privacy.

All the artists who hung paintings in the Gran Fondo this year still survive.

But Bates said she does have a collection of paintings by people who took her Creative Expressions class and have since died of cancer.

Bates said the minute you are diagnosed with cancer is when you start becoming and always will be a cancer survivor.

The Creative Expressions class is free, but limited to cancer survivors. Materials are supplied. To learn more about Creative Expressions, call the cancer center at 522-5700.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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