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Guest Column - Lauren Dinnewth
The stories behind the art

June 27, 2012

By Lauren Dinneweth

Orion Art Center Director

The face is sculpted metal, the edges carefully honed to scalpel sharp points. Donn Angel Perez calls it simply 'Surgery.'  It's one of the faces the architectural designer created after being diagnosed with a brain tumor - his way to understand the cancer that invaded his life.

"The fractured, cut-up pieces represent the tight, precise and skillful moves a surgeon must execute to make a great and complete job," said Perez. "The screws represent the fact that after cutting, all of it must come back together."  

Donn is thoughtful and at times soft spoken. It's clear that this art is deeply personal.

I'm taken back a year and a half ago when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I'd been with her, peering at the mammogram, trying to make sense with an untrained eye as we listened to the doctor.  A week later I was back home, a few states away when she called with the 'official' word. She was strong. I was not.

As artists, we pour our souls into our work. Sometimes it helps to make sense of the world when everything else is falling apart. Creativity forged with emotion.

That's one reason I feel a strong connection to the 'Hope and Healing' exhibit next month at the Orion Art Center. When you're talking about cancer, more often than not, the first emotion is fear. But somehow, creativity makes room for hope.

Photographer Mary Seifka Douglas underwent three surgeries for skin cancer, rounds of chemotherapy and skin grafts. She was terrified, wondering what the next diagnosis would bring.  

During her darkest days, she found hope through the lens of her camera. One of her photos is a beach entitled, 'The Calm... Before and After the Storm.'

"It's about finding peace and beauty in everyday things even when the days of going through cancer treatment and surgery seems like more than you can take," she said. "It brought me comfort, helped calm my nerves, get me through some rough days."

Douglas and Perez will share their art along with other artists next month. The exhibit is not only for cancer survivors, but also doctors, nurses, family members and caregivers- anyone who wants to share their emotional and spiritual journey.

Perez is grateful for 13 years of life since his surgery.

"We may share the feeling that we can be strong, that we can be courageous, but there's a tear in every person," he said. "(My art) helped me put the pieces back. It helped me understand what I was facing and I hope it can help others."

This kind of art isn't always easy, but it's real. It has power. And I believe, hope that can lead to healing.

Brushstrokes is a monthly column from the Director of the Orion Art Center. The 'Hope and Healing' Show will run July 18- August 26.  If you're an interested artist, visit or call 248-693-4986.