Artists inspire others by sharing thoughts, observations

It’s been called a different kind of healing. Art has its own way of inspiring others through story telling. These works are part of the Second Annual CompleteLife Art Show at IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes

German-born artist Anni Albers once said, “Art is something that makes you breathe with different happiness.” That breath is evident in the artist contributions of the Second Annual CompleteLife Art Show at IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

Patients and caregivers submitted a variety of artworks ranging from a boat peacefully sailing at sea to a fossilized femur. Each piece has meaning that is absorbed through personal journeys – a patient treated for breast cancer, a husband who cared for his terminally ill wife, and a cosmetologist who fits patients for wigs.

“The purpose of the show is to highlight and share the power of art, healing and health and to educate others about arts in healthcare and art therapy – how they are the same and how they are different, and to create a healing and inspiring environment at the hospital,” said Lindsay Syswerda, manager of the CompleteLife Program.

The CompleteLife Program at IU Health is a comprehensive therapy program that attends to the body, mind and spirit of the whole person. CompleteLife services are available for patients and families at IU Health Simon Cancer Center and IU Health University Hospital. Complimentary programs include appearance consultations such as a wig bank fittings and makeup workshops, massage, music, yoga, and art therapy.

The majority of the works in the CompleteLife art show were created independently. Certified Art Therapist Lisa Rainey describes her work with patients at IU Health like this: “Art therapy is a largely non-verbal form of psychotherapy and counseling; however patients are always invited to share their hopes, desires, and life stories.”

Here are a few of those stories in this year’s show “Imagine. Inspire. Reflect.”

  • “The Gift,” oil on canvas by Teresa Altemeyer, a patient with chronic lymphoma. Altemeyer is not only a patient but also a patient advocate working closely with the Indiana Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to help educate others diagnosed with LLS. She facilitates a first Monday Cancer Support Group at IU Health University Hospital and is a professional artist. A bouquet of flowers she received while hospitalized inspired her painting. “It is easy to forget what the beauty of the “outside world’” looks like when you are in a room full of equipment and instrumentation for days on end,” said Altemeyer. “The beauty of the flowers reminded and inspired me to focus on the world waiting for me beyond the four walls of my room and to reflect on the people I needed to get well for who are important in my life.”
  • “Hope,” a colored pencil drawing by Wilma Cross, CompleteLife cosmetologist and a chronic lymphoma patient. Her artwork represents those people in her life touched by cancer including her husband, patients, and friends.
  • “Inspired to Survive,” an acrylic pouring paint by ovarian cancer patient JoNell Stevenson. She has had four bouts with cancer and says other survivors – including attendees at an Ovarian Cancer Retreat she attended in Montana, have inspired her to survive.
  • “Dawn of a New Day,” an acrylic painting on canvas custom framed with recycled wood, by Jay Hanner. A caregiver for his wife of many years, Hanner’s work was inspired by their trips to Gulf Shores. He says, “Each new dawn is a blessing.”
  • “Splashes of Inspiration,” by Carmon Weaver Hicks. Created with splash paint balls, nail polish and markers, Hicks’ artwork represents her splashes of inspiration during her diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. She is a 13-year survivor.
  • Breast Cancer Awareness Paracord Bracelets by Ron Andrei in honor of Karen Andrei. When Karen Andrei was diagnosed with breast cancer her husband began creating the paracord bracelets as a way to reduce stress. He hopes the bracelets will raise awareness of the disease.

The CompleteLife Art Show continues at IU Health Simon Cancer Center through September 29. It will again be displayed at the Harrison Center for the Arts on Friday, Oct. 4. The show is sponsored by Roche Diagnostics.