BARBARA ZELES

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

Untitled burlap, Hydrocal, metal rod 65 x 19 x 20 inches 1994


Oh No burlap, Hydrocal, metal rod 50 x 21 x 30 inches 1991


My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 1976. Her mother and four of five siblings had died or were about to die of bowel cancer at that time. Mom went through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy before her death on March 13, 1988. I am still unraveling my response to the years of treatment, the doctors' visits, the illness and loss of my mother.

My sculpture gives me a physical language to explore the emotional response to illness. I began the untitled figure when a friend's husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It speaks not only of their fear, but my own deep-rooted fear of being eaten away by cancer.

Currently, I am a healthy woman in my 40s building sculpture in my Boston studio. I receive yearly mammograms. My insurance company refuses to cover a colonoscopy recommended on the basis of family history.

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