Twenty years ago, a dramatic change in my health forced me to quit teaching art in a public high school. I could not reconcile why illness came into my life and force me to stop teaching. While recuperating, I created the Bodyscapes Technique as a way to make sense of my life at that critical time. Plus, I needed to find a better way to communicate to my family what I was experiencing, the sorrow and the hope, the appreciation and the growth. Saturday, May 9th, 2015, I stood before 8 women. 7 out of the 8 women were living with or surviving cancer. One woman was the loving wife of a man living with cancer. She was also the daughter of a woman just diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Hi, I am Diane, Founder of the Red and Orange House Foundation and creator of the Bodyscapes Technique.” I started. “I am conducting this workshop because I was awarded a Lloyd Symington Foundation grant. I dreamed of this day.” My fingertips pressed against my lips as they do whenever I am too filled with emotion to speak. “Twenty years ago,” I started again. “I created the Bodyscapes Technique. I created it for myself to answer the questions, Why me? Why did I get sick?”
Every woman in the room nodded because they too had asked themselves that agonizing question, over and over. Again, my fingertips covered my mouth because I was too filled with overwhelming gratitude to speak. In a flash, my former school-teacher-self was back in full swing, enjoying every word I said. “In this workshop, I will teach you to enter into the same state as an artist, a state that everyone has and is capable of accessing. Once in this state, the Bodyscapes Technique will guide you how to uncover, as the poet does, words and phrases which more faithfully portray your experience of living with pain and illness. We will use a dictionary and a thesaurus to create a new collection of words to more aptly describe the subtler feelings of your inner mind and being. Then, we will choose the most meaningful words from your expressive writing to be integrated into a pastel drawing.”
And we did, for over three hours.
The Women’s Cancer Resource Center in Oakland helps women with cancer improve their quality of life through education, supportive services, and practical assistance. The current art exhibit in WCRC is titled Facing Ourselves: Portraits by LGBTQ Artists, running until June 30th, 2015. http://www.wcrc.org/connect-with-our-wellness-community/art-gallery/