The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: May 3, 2002

Retablo acrylic 20 x 24 inches 1995

On the day I began my radiation treatments at the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center, I walked over to the adjacent Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology to see "Miracles on the Border," an exhibition of retablos painted by immigrants. The retablos were expressions of thanks for deliverance from an ordeal. Fascinated and moved, I decided to paint.

My retablo forced me to confront my changed body after breast removal surgery. The self-portrait is actually an assimilation of several stages of treatment: I am wearing the scarf necessitated by complete hair loss from chemo, yet the wound from surgery is still very fresh, the way it still felt to me. Because I had stared at my changed form so many times in the bathroom mirror, it seemed natural to paint it as a mirror image: somehow, appearance was reality for me.

Frequently Asked Questions