Café exhibit examines artists’ experiences with cancer | News, Sports, Jobs

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“Monstrous Creatures” by Olivia in Moab. Now 8, she drew this when she was 4 when she was diagnosed with cancer.

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“Floral Death Mask” by Christina Graff-Charbonneau of Ogden.

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“The Chemo Comics” by Justina Parsons Bernstein of Ogden.

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“Last Day of Chemo” by Justina Parsons Bernstein.

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“Bird by Bird” by Darla G. Thompson of New Mexico.

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OGDEN – While undergoing treatment for cancer, sometimes too weak to even sit, Justina Parsons-Bernstein began drawing comics to show what it’s like to live with the disease.

Now, more than a year later, the Ogden resident’s 20-page comic book is one of 45 exhibits that will be on display at Grounds for Coffee, 3005 Harrison Blvd., from Saturday through November 15. Pieces include paintings, sculptures, textiles and more to convey the anger, grief, loss, love, joy, gratitude, introspection, unexpected strength and irreverence that cancer has brought. to their lives, Parsons-Bernstein said. Artists from across the country as well as Australia take part in the event.

“I was diagnosed in 2020-2021. What a Christmas and New Years present,” Parsons-Bernstein said. lost my hair. I was puffed up. I started taking selfies to document the changes in my body, hoping to see if there was anything left of me in there.

Not only did she write and illustrate a comic and take photos, Parsons-Bernstein also wrote a poem and made paintings to document her journey with cancer. She then decided to contact others affected by the disease, as a patient, family member or carer, to see if they would provide an item for the exhibit.

“I wanted to reach out to people because the fact is that 40% of people will have some type of cancer in their lifetime and almost everyone has been deeply affected by it in one way or another,” said she declared. “This exhibition is created by people who have portrayed fascinating, heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious works of art.”

The youngest performer is an 8-year-old Moab resident named Olivia who was diagnosed with cancer at age 4, Parsons-Bernstein said. Olivia drew a picture titled “Monstrous Creature” just weeks before her diagnosis.

“His mom said it was really weird,” Parsons-Bernstein said. “In the few months leading up to her diagnosis, monsters became a common theme in Olivia’s art. Olivia’s mother came to believe that monsters represented Olivia’s subconscious, trying to express the danger that lurked within her.

Another Ogden resident, Stephanie Howerton, will display her textile art, which depicts her mother, who died of cancer last year.

“She wasn’t feeling well so my brother took her to the doctor. She was diagnosed with cancer and given five to seven years to live, but died three weeks later,” Howerton said. “It was a shock. It blindsided us all.

Howerton said he took an online course from Cas Holmes, one of the UK’s best-known textile artists, and designed a piece for the exhibition by taking different types of paper and putting them together.

“I wanted to use things that represented what was important to my mum, so I found some old school papers of us kids that she had kept, tiny handprints of our hands, an old credit card. ‘Germany, pictures of owls, letters from little children and a Poem from Peter Pan,’ she said. “I’m so grateful that Justina asked me to participate and I appreciate her inspiration to make this happen.”

Christina Graff-Charbonneau from Ogden created a needle felt piece titled “Floral Death Mask: Pushing Up Daisy”.

“I didn’t have cancer personally, but instead my journey was through friends,” she said. “It struck me most when Justina told me about her own cancer. Throughout it all, I was getting the day-to-day details of her pain and suffering, but also her glimpses of hope and recovery. .

Graff-Charbonneau said she had already started working on a piece of needle felting when the pandemic hit, but that became both her reaction to COVID and Parsons-Berstein’s diagnosis.

“I was going to the grocery store, all masked. There was a lot of fear and strangers at the time and this gentleman approached me and just gave me a bouquet of flowers,” he said. she said, “It was so shocking and wonderful and I saw this piece of art in my head in the moment.”

Graff-Charbonneau said she spoke to people who had survived cancer and asked them what their favorite flower was and incorporated those flowers into her artwork.

“When you go through something so awful, you try to seek out the beauty around you and that’s the mix I wanted to portray,” she said. “Needle felting is very tedious and time consuming, so it is very therapeutic to engage in it. I’m really grateful to have been invited to participate in this exhibition and I hope people will be inspired when they see it.

Dan and Suzy Dailey are the owners of Grounds for Coffee.

“Justina is a long-time client and friend. Her cancer diagnosis was devastating and we could only stay in touch virtually throughout her treatment,” Suzy Dailey said. “From time to time Justina would send in some of the artwork she created to help her through her battle with cancer. I thought they were wonderful, so when she approached me with the idea of ​​exhibiting his work, along with others, across the country and the world, I was intrigued.

Dailey said the cafe has provided space for local artists for 30 years and it’s one of the things she loves most about running a cafe.

“Cancer touches so many of us, and for those who have experienced it themselves or have been carers for someone who has, or if you are currently undergoing treatment, we want you to know that you are not alone,” she said. “Everyone will experience cancer treatment differently. We hope that through this exhibition people will find a piece that resonates with them. And, if you were lucky enough not to have experienced cancer, to see how deeply it affects those who have it.

If local artists would like to be considered for an exhibition, visit


WHAT: “Proof of life: art in the face of cancer”

WHEN: From October 1 to November 15

WHERE: Coffee Grounds, 3005 Harrison Blvd., Ogden

A live Q&A with in-person and remote artists will take place on October 1 from 4-6 p.m.


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