Art exhibit tackles difficult subject; Faculty and students express how cancer touched their lives

Rainer Anderson examines his piece "Shattered" which he entered in the Big C Exhibit in the 4x4 Gallery in Building 17 May 1.Photo: Penny Scott

Rainer Anderson examines his piece “Shattered” which he entered in the Big C Exhibit in the 4×4 Gallery in Building 17 May 1.
Photo: Penny Scott

Media arts student Rainer Anderson, who prefers to be called RB, said his life was shattered when he found out he had cancer. He uses writing and art to express what it’s been like starting over again.

Anderson got a chance to express himself in the Big C exhibit in the 4×4 Gallery’s introductory show in Building 17. It contains both media, and is dominated by black writing of all sizes. Included is a faculty segment called “Life Landscapes.”

“I thought it would be great if I could speak and write myself into existence,” Anderson said.

Displayed at the Big C exhibit are paintings, photography and other works of art by media arts faculty and students whose lives have been touched by cancer.

The exhibit began as a faculty project last fall. The contributors were media arts instructors Teresa Hughes, Jeri Mrazek, Meredith Keene-Wilson and Richard Lennox. The project began as a community service to increase awareness of breast cancer.

However, the show kept changing and growing into something else. They soon realized that, either directly or indirectly, cancer touches most people’s lives. So they decided to open the exhibit up to students.

While the project moved through different phases, cancer continued to touch the lives of the contributors.

“I had a friend who was given two months to live while this was going on,” Hughes said. “Sometimes I thought ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ then good things happened, and we were off again.”

According to research conducted by the American Cancer Society, an estimated 585,720 people
are expected to die from cancer in the United States in 2014.

Hughes, Mrazek and Keene-Wilson decided to participate in a twenty year American Cancer Society study. However, the focus of their involvement is expressed through art and the creation of opportunities for their students to do the same.

“Several students said ‘I had no idea I was hanging onto this issue,’” Keene-Wilson said. Responses
to the exhibit have been mostly favorable. However, some students have found the topic confronting and have shielded their eyes upon seeing the artwork. Some of the posters around campus have been torn down as well.

“I’m impressed by the response to the call to artists,” Jan Halvorsen, media arts instructor said. “Every piece is interesting and has a story. As I look at the work, I’m thinking ‘I want to know more about this.'”