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

Departure - Triptych for Nellie oil, beeswax, alkyd Each panel 66 x 51 inches 1993-1995

I graduated from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in 1966 with a diploma in nursing. I had wanted to go to art school when I was 17, but my parents thought otherwise. In 1988, I graduated from the University of California, Davis, with an MFA in painting any way. Now I know there is art to be made while nursing as well as painting. For me, one supports the other, and both nourish our culture.

Working in the bone marrow transplant unit at the University Medical Center in Tucson shook me to the core. Here I found patients who were as present as any of my mentors in Davis, and they became my teachers as they faced their own mortality. I could do no less than be as present as possible, for to be less than that would have been a betrayal. This meant going beyond the physical changes, beyond my own discomfort in the face of mental or physical pain, accepting whatever came up, and staying with it. From my patients, I learned a reverence for life, incredible belief in the human spirit, the power of humor, and compassion.

I am committed to expressing these experiences as comprehensively, deeply, and richly as possible, limited only by the bounds of my creativity. This piece was done to honor the memory of the first patient I came to know. The panels are about her transformation from the time of her chemotherapy and transplant through the months following and her final release from the world.

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