In the Eye of the Beholder

Painting Brings Joy to Cancer Centre


May Porter points out one of the markings left by a cancer patient on a canvas which was then turned into this stunning piece of art by Porter using a style called ‘Paint Mojo’. The painting is currently on display in the Cancer Centre but will be used in the future to raise funds for the Northern Cancer Fund.

By Heather Vita - June 28, 2017

A quick trip upstairs to the Reception area of the Cancer Centre brings into view what you’d normally expect – a welcome desk, chairs, magazines, a television, along with some books and puzzles. But what immediately catches your eye is a very unique piece of art with bright, vibrant colours.

It’s a community piece that was formed when artist May Porter invited cancer patients and their family members, along with staff at the Cancer Centre, to leave his or her marks on a canvas she brought to the Reception area one day this Spring. “People used different paints to put whatever mark they wanted,” she explained. Porter provided some different tools including feathers, skewers, and paintbrushes for painting, while some opted to just use their fingers. “I invited people to express whatever they wanted on the canvas,” she said, “be it an abstract thought or something more concrete like initials.”

Once all the marks were complete, Porter took the canvas home and began a process to turn the piece into what it is now. Using a style called ‘Paint Mojo’ developed by artist Tracy Verdugo, Porter found ‘pictures within a picture’ and teased them out. To enhance the pictures she saw, she covered certain portions of the canvas in white paint – unveiling different animals including a cat, an owl and others. The marks left by those who painted still remain and form the background to the images she was able to find.

“It’s a very vibrant picture, and most people who see it smile,” she mentioned. “I think that having it up in the Cancer Centre adds a bit of light and positivity to a process that’s not always cheery.” Porter herself knows what it’s like to sit in the Reception area, having been a cancer patient. “I just want to give people that hope and let them know that you can get through this,” she said. “I had a very poor diagnosis and I’m still here – because of a lot of factors, including the wonderful team here – but also because of a positive mindset. I hope this art can inspire those who see it to have some joy and that it brightens their day.”

Porter has graciously donated the art to be used by the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation in a fundraiser to raise funds for the Northern Cancer Fund, to ensure there continues to be exceptional cancer care equipment at the Cancer Centre. As for the future, she hopes to be able to do another piece soon. “Anyone can paint if they keep trying,” she smiled, “and I like that I can help people to do something a little different.”

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