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Cancer survivors find peace through art

For the past three weeks, a group of 12 cancer patients, survivors and caretakers have been getting in touch with their creative side. An exhibit at On the Rocks Art Studio will show the work created by the new artists on Feb. 11. "It's interesti...

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A still from Laurie Orbeck's untitled video collage, part of the Art Express show Feb. 11.

 

For the past three weeks, a group of 12 cancer patients, survivors and caretakers have been getting in touch with their creative side. An exhibit at On the Rocks Art Studio will show the work created by the new artists on Feb. 11.

"It's interesting because it's very personal work, but I'm OK with people seeing it," said Laurie Orbeck, one of the participants. "I shared it already with my family and with some of my close friends and colleagues who have been with me through all of this. I just hope it resonates with people. That it means something."

Free and open to the public, the exhibit, "Art Express: Sketches, Doodles & Drafts," is an informal showing of drawings, poems, dance and video collage. The work consists of quick exercises done in the workshops with four local artists: painter Elizabeth Kuth, dancer Lisa McKhann, poet Sheila Packa and digital artist Joellyn Rock. The workshop was presented by Project Lulu, a Duluth-based nonprofit offering expressive arts to individuals and communities, run by Lisa McKhann.

"It was an opportunity for people touched by cancer, in their own bodies or in someone they love, to exercise their creative expression and maybe find healing in the process," McKhann said.

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McKhann is a survivor of ovarian cancer. She started Project Lulu as a way to help others experiencing cancer find a safe place to write and read among others in the same boat. Project Lulu is commonly known for providing online journal spaces, but recently McKhann has been trying to provide other artistic means of expression.

"I don't think of myself as an artist. I doodle a little bit. It's been over 20 years since my last dance class. And I hadn't been journaling through this process," Orbeck said. "So when I heard about this, I thought it would be an unique opportunity to spend time on things I enjoy but don't regularly do."

Orbeck was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2015. Her diagnosis came six months after losing her father to cancer. Despite her desire to tell her cancer story artistically, Orbeck said she had a hard time giving up Monday nights for the workshops. Normally she would be curling.

"It was not good timing for me. I had to kind of make a decision that I was going to pull this off. I made it work. And I'm so grateful that I did," Orbeck said.

Orbeck's main piece is a digital video collage. In it, the viewer sees her silhouette dancing in front of one of her paintings while her voice reads one of her poems aloud. Each piece of the collage was created by Orbeck throughout the sessions. It details her experience with breast cancer, losing her father and her journey towards peace.

"As quickly as you came, you appear to be gone, out of sight. Gone, but never forgotten. You can leave, you can stay gone. You have left me stronger and weaker. Unchanged and never the same. Back on my path that will never be the same again," reads Orbeck at one point in her video.

Orbeck says she kept it untitled and vague so that others can "find whatever meaning they need in it."

If you go

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What: Art Express: Sketches, Doodles & Drafts

When: 5:30-7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 11. Conversation with participants and artist teachers begin at 6 p.m.

Where: On the Rocks Art Studio, 307 Canal Park Drive, third floor

Related Topics: ARTHEALTH
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