“The curse of cancer created a strange and strained existence, challenging me to be neither blind to, nor bound by, death’s approach. Even when the cancer was in retreat, it cast long shadows”.    Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

Weight, Wait, 2017, mixed media on Tyvek detail

Weight, Wait (detail #1), spray paint, acrylic, graphite on Tyvek®,©NanciHersh

I can’t remember if I thought about death much before cancer, or maybe, I recognized those thoughts more when I became a mother twenty years ago with the birth of our first son. Life felt more fragile and precious, and with these beautiful little souls that I was now responsible for; there was so much more to miss- or lose. Either way, Griffin and Nate were young, 5 and 3 respectively, when I received my first cancer diagnosis. And now, 15 years later I recognize that truth in Paul Kalanithi’s elegant passage.

Initially, I was on the front line, and working was my way of fighting, of processing, of understanding to find meaning, purpose, clarity, healing.

Did I have some relief from these thoughts of death as I moved further away with time, celebrating milestones and cancer free anniversaries?  I don’t truly remember because once I began the journey, I also became connected  through shared experiences and stories, to all these other people, several of whom, have since passed. And with that I felt sorrow, loss, and above all, “there but for the Grace of God, go I”.

There, but for the Grace of God, go I ©2003NanciHersh

There, but for the Grace of God, go I, 2003, mixed media collage on handmade paper. Collection of Marian Donohue and Doug Fraser. ©2003NanciHersh

And that thought, and those shadows are a part of who I am and everything I do. Ironically, I have always found beauty in shadows; they offer a new perspective on things. Shapes flicker and shift. They are ethereal, and can be magical or menacing.

Studio inspiration on my walls.

Long shadows. This magazine spread found years ago was so compelling to me it was years (!) before I took notice that it was an ad for Hyundai. It still hangs on my studio wall.

My current work of lines of energy that flow, entangle, break free; are navigating these waters that are often murky, sometimes (but rarely lately, calm and clear), but I persist in finding a way to a place of peace and continue to seek the beauty in all these entanglements.  And often, these denser areas are more interesting to me in that they offer rich layers of texture and colors, that keep me grounded, feel more alive and a part of this world.  I continue to search for the connections that bring meaning to this brief journey and learn to accept, not fear, what is inevitable.

Mixed media painting on Tyvek®  ©2017Nnaci

Weight, Wait, (in progress) Spray paint, acrylic, graphite on Tyvek®, 48″x60″

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