December 24, 2012

Coping with cancer inspires art that helps others

Sally Loughridge's images and messages go into a book that shows the power of expressing feelings.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Painter Sally Loughridge describes the machines used in her radiation treatments and how they affected her.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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"My Terrain," from the second day of treatment, an image of Loughridge on the treatment table.

Additional Photos Below


SALLY LOUGHRIDGE will present her story at the Community Cancer Center in South Portland at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 22. The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required; call 774-2200.

SHE ALSO will present a workshop at a Living with Cancer conference at the Augusta Civic Center on May 1. Call 800-227-2345 for more information.

She gave the images no thought in advance, and had no goals for how she wanted them to look. Even now, she resists using the word "painting" to describe them. "They're not paintings," she says. "They're expressions."

Today, the 33 panels line a rail that runs along the wall of her studio. As they are in the book, the paintings are aligned in chronological order.

They tell the arc of her story.

The image from Day 1 is titled "My Right Breast." Loughridge wrote, "I had always thought of my breasts as a matched pair. But once I received a diagnosis of breast cancer, they have become distinctly individual."

Day 4 is "Feeling Small" -- a wash of thick red paint with a tiny little blob of yellow. "Low Day" is a color field of purple and blue. "Despite having lots of love and support, I feel alone and apart," she wrote.

As the treatment continues, the mood lightens. The colors becomes brighter. Her expression feels more confident.

By the 11th day of her treatment, she creates an image that resembles a Loughridge painting. It is a seascape, with a pair of islands off in the distance beneath a sky that hints of sunshine.

She titled this one "Out of Nowhere" because it represented the first time in this process that Loughridge noticed her natural painting instinct float up "out of nowhere." She says, "It most resembles the work that I do. That felt good to me. That was the first moment in this sequence that I felt lighter."

As an artist, Loughridge resists the urge to edit or improve these images, and is able to views them critically.

"I don't like this one," she says of one. "And I really don't like this one. These two are trying way too hard."

She calls attention to a painting she calls "My Terrain," from the second day of treatment.

At first glance, it looks like a landscape, with a deep red mountain range blanketed by a stormy yellow sky. She remembers feeling unhappy and scared, and wrote in her journal, "I am angry that I need more treatment, angry that I have cancer."

Look closely, and we see that "My Terrain" is not a mountain range, but an image of Loughridge on the treatment table. There's her head, her breasts and the bend of her knees propped over a pillow. The unsettled atmosphere above her torso are clouds of radiation.

"I endowed myself a little bit," she laughs. "But why not? I'm losing them."

Nearing three years since her diagnosis, Loughridge is healthy. She is active and making paintings that are familiar to her collectors and fans.

She feels hopeful and positive about her life, and hopes her book will inspire others facing the darkest days of their lives.

"I know this book has helped people already, and I know it's going to help people in the future. I feel very good about that," she says.

She encourages those going through treatment to find a way to express feelings.

"You don't have to be an artist to do this. You just have to be alive and look inward and use your resources," she says.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be reached at 791-6457 or:

Twitter: pphbkeyes


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Additional Photos

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In her book, “Rad Art,” Loughridge shares painted and written expressions of her experiences as a cancer patient undergoing radiation.

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“Beyond the Woods,” a painting by Sally Loughridge of South Bristol, who turned a series of small oil paintings into a book, “Rad Art: A Journey Through Radiation Treatment.”


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