Shannon 2014 is one work composed of 4 paintings, each framed separately, that reflect upon 4 states of being during my mother-in-law’s treatment for breast cancer. Our first session was on the 1st of January 2014. She had just completed her first round of treatment and looked, to me, as if she were in a state of bewilderment. We were both uncomfortable. She - trying to be stoic about her new reality as a cancer patient and her recent loss of hair and I – wanting to do her generosity justice. To be seen closely is no small matter, nor is looking, and as often happens when I begin a portrait, I listen as much, or more, than I paint. My marks are typically unsettled, searching for the key or a timbre that makes the most sense. Capturing a likeness has little to do with it. After an hour or two there were a few shapes, some lines that seemed to convey a sense of loss and, perhaps, the delicacy of Shannon’s new hair. She was tired. I added some photos to augment my data and agreed to try again the next day. In the meantime, I continued painting from memory.
During our second session, Shannon spoke less. She appeared less exhausted but much more vulnerable. What seemed, a day earlier, like a tacit glimpse of one woman’s battle against something unknown, seemed more like a hair-bald invasion of a person overcome by dread. On day #2 it was I who seemed particularly uneasy to be there, painting, when perhaps I should’ve been consoling. I don’t remember if I took photos the second day. Our session was brief.
Over the next month or two I returned to my initial portrait of Shannon and started a second. When she visited in March, I was prepared to ask her to sit again. Of course, she looked completely different in March. There was a vitality that seemed to match the luster of her new white hair. She seemed enthusiastic to pose and we set out again, this time, outside on our patio, to share an afternoon. And once again, multiple transformations unfolded. I started a third version of Shannon, and then a fourth, followed by more photographs.
Eventually, I settled on four distinct emotional, physical and psychological states that seemed to be inhabited by, or to inhabit, Shannon over the course of her treatment – her bewilderment at the beginning replaced by the dread of what was to come, the determined anger exuded in March after staring cancer down, head-on day after day, month after month, followed by an awakening as she transitioned from patient to survivor.