A Statement About the "Random Thoughts on Survival" Exhibit

Excerpts from R. Freeland's Art Talk at the Jennifer Diamond Cancer Resource Library at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center

June 8, 2016

Today I am here with new work all because I offered to draw silly pictures for patients, I was certain I could do the work, the silly drawings. Through a wonderful chain of events and connections I was introduced to Mary Aalto.

Two years ago I had just framed a large body of my art, then I was diagnosed with cancer for the second time.

Recently, when the opportunity to present my work at USC was offered, I no longer felt anything I had created before could express the experience or the challenges of surviving cancer.

I sincerely thank Mary Aalto for giving me the opportunity to exhibit new work.

Thank you all in the USC Cancer Survivorship Advisory Council and the wonderful Patient Experience Team.

Here we are in a very special place, the Jennifer Diamond Cancer Resource Library at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. for me it is a safe haven where one can actually speak of things we generally learn not to share.

I am truly grateful to be painting again, I thank the doctors and nurses of USC, for now I can, and now it's a very different picture to paint and something very different to portray. Surviving cancer means one often becomes medically altered, and also perceptively altered.

The first time I survived cancer, I was not sure where my place was as an artist.  Be it friends, family or clients, I felt so changed, it was hard to put words to it. Then, I was told a story that helped me in a great way and I would like to share this you.

The story I was told goes something like this:

We each came into the world, like coming to the theater.

We are given seats near our loved ones all close by.

Life unfolds before us, as if on a stage we can see and experience the performance with our love ones.

We have similar experiences, and understandings from those same seats.

Then one day something happens, we change seats.

We see a new perspective about life.

We can still see our loved ones but perhaps across the theater.

This is what my work is about, the change of perspectives as I survived cancer.  This is my work titled "Random Thoughts about Survival".

There are often visions of the Kabuki Theater and its actors. I chose the Kabuki theme as a metaphor of the story I was told about changing seats. Kabuki is a form of traditional Japanese drama with highly stylized song, mime, and dance.  For me it is a joyful expression.

I am joyful to be here with new work, and as I look around the room and see so many who believed in me, so many who escorted me in my survival I have these words for you: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Then someone asked about the three paintings behind me, and when I said their titles they knew, we all were on the same page.

"Cisplatin Water" (Cisplatin is the platinum based drug used for chemo and relates to the "Heavenly Visitor" painting)

"Radiating Candles" (is derived from an image of candles and represents the radiation many of us were exposed to)

"Heavenly Visitor" ( depicts a mythical figure sitting in a darkened hospital room as a companion the night)

In closing, my life is beautiful as are the fires and waters we pass through, it's not bad, we are survivors.