Twist Out Cancer provides psychosocial support to cancer survivors and their loved ones through creative arts programming. The global community enables anyone touched by cancer to connect, create, support and inspire. More information is available at https://twistoutcancer.org/
Artist: Bryan Warner
Inspiration: Jamie Diianni
“Extinction is the rule… Survival is the exception.” Carl Sagan. I had never seen this quote before I met my inspiration, Jamie. She keeps this quote on her desk, because she chooses to be the exception, and she doesn’t mind breaking the rules. Surviving cancer is an exceptional challenge, and Jamie is an extraordinary person. I admire her generosity and her tenacity. She works at a children’s hospital advocating for families who have children with cancer. Her life is devoted to helping children get the care they deserve. I cannot think of many things more noble than that.
Over the course of getting to know Jamie I learned about the process of surviving cancer treatment. We discussed the emotional, physical, and professional impacts that her treatment had on her and her family. I got to know Jamie by listening to her talk about the most challenging times of her life. In many ways this is an unusual way to get to know someone. She was so gracious to share her story with me. Jamie talked about how she views cancer as a process not a journey, because cancer doesn’t really have an end. Cancer leaves an imprint on the lives and families that it impacts. My impression of cancer’s impact on Jamie is that it strained important parts of her identity such as: her ability to care for her family, to garden, and to work at the hospital advocating for families fighting their own battles with cancer. I feel as though cancer turned her world upside down.
My painting inspired by Jamie and her story is called “Crystalline (gotta get you back to you).” The title and imagery are inspired by a Tori Amos song called “The Reindeer King” which was a song that Jamie listened to while going through her treatment. The chorus of the song declares “gotta get you back to you.” Something that we talked about frequently was that she felt incomplete while going through her treatment. I wanted to show her struggle and her triumph in the painting. Jamie and her family are represented in Crystalline as reindeer standing over a reflection of the world and memories that cancer brought to their lives. The top half shows the reindeer with a crown standing proudly with its family on a summer day. The bottom half of the painting shows a winter scene with a solitary reindeer, wearing a crown of thorns and entangled in IV tubes. I designed the painting so that it could be hung with either the summer or the winter side up. This could be seen as a meditation on the various perspectives of Jamie’s process, and a way to give the viewer some choice over how they relate to her painting.