Pieces of My Sister
Suzana Black, a 10th grader at Olympus High School, created a work of art for his sister and submitted it to the Granite School District Cesar Chavez Social Justice Art Competition “Building Bridges of Peace.”
Suzana’s sister has cancer. But that’s not the important fact. Here’s the important fact: Suzana’s sister is not defined by cancer.
Suzana created an abstract representation of his sister’s face with acrylic paint and colored pencils. A focal point dominates the top of his canvas—an image of her eye: glossy and dusty due to the chemotherapy treatments performed on her eye to address the cancer in her brain. Other areas of the canvas show illustrations of her nose, her ears, and her lips. Each body part is placed on the foreground of a green rectangle and arranged on a blue and green ombré background.
The artist's statement reads, “I wanted to draw my sister’s eye that has cancer, but I wanted to show that there is more to her than cancer and that [cancer] is just a part of her.”
In our interview, Suzana, his mom and sister Abby (not the one with cancer) shared their thoughts about the work and its meaning.
Suzana began by telling the story of the first time he met his sister: he thought her eyes were beautiful. He wanted to draw her eyes. He generally enjoys painting and sketching portraits, but he wanted to take an abstract approach and include only three other distinct features of her face. He said his sister was excited about the project when he told her about it. He told her that the art reflected her battle with cancer,, but not really, because the artwork story emphasized supporting her as a human being—a person more than just a “kid with cancer.”
Abby echoed Suzana’s thoughts: she shared her experiences defending her sister when she was treated differently by peers at school. “They treated her like she was the “kid with cancer” and she is, but she’s more than that! She’s so tough.” As I learned more about this young woman by listening to the love and admiration held by her siblings, I wanted to meet this resilient person!
Suzana’s mom commented on the impact visual arts has had on Suzana. She explained that the act of drawing and completing works of art have helped increase his self-esteem and confidence. I asked Suzana if he agreed with that, and he nodded. “Yeah, I was in a really low place when I started drawing and it has really helped with my self-esteem.”
This article was written by Heather Francis, Dance Teaching Artist and Advocacy Director for UDEO (@heatherfrancisdances). Photos by Lisa Gemperline ( @lisagempphotography).