Alumna used artwork to cope with illness

A painting from alumna Dorothy Uber Bryan’s series “The Chemo Paintings,” which depict her fight with cancer. They will soon be on display at the University.

A painting from alumna Dorothy Uber Bryan’s series “The Chemo Paintings,” which depict her fight with cancer. They will soon be on display at the University.

Campus Editor and Campus Editor

Students may cope with illnesses or life events in different ways, but one former student used painting as a way to cope with cancer.

Dorothy Uber Bryan, an alumna, created a series of paintings called “The Chemo Paintings” during her struggle with cancer.

“They’re wonderful paintings in the way they document her struggle with an illness that eventually took her life,” said Charles Kanwischer, professor of art at the University.

Bryan died from cancer in Feb. 2001, according to an obituary in the Toledo Blade, but her paintings live on. Bryan’s paintings will be shown in three places: the Toledo Museum of Art, the University gallery named after Bryan and, finally, they will be placed permanently at the University of Toledo Medical Center.

The paintings are presently on display in the Community Gallery at the Toledo Museum of Art, and soon, paintings from community members will join Bryan’s work, said Jennifer Bandeen, manager of the Community Gallery.

The works will be created through the museum’s ArtReach program during a series of workshops, where community members who have survived cancer, are currently suffering from it or who have a loved one who has had cancer will create paintings.

All the ArtReach workshops are centered on Bryan’s paintings as inspiration, Bandeen said.

“I think [the workshops are] a way for those going through cancer or with a loved one with cancer to express themselves nonverbally,” Bandeen said.

Art can be a source of strength during times of illness, Kanwischer said.

“I find it remarkable that she could find the mental strength to focus so much on her painting in the face of such a serious illness,” Kanwischer said. “She must have found some kind of therapy or relief in the act of making the pictures.”

Art can be a form of therapy on a number of levels, Kanwischer said.

“One is for the artist,” he said. “Making and planning and executing require an effort that distracts you from the illness.”

The paintings are being used as inspiration because they depict a struggle many people can relate to, Bandeen said.

“Cancer speaks to everyone,” she said. “It’s something that speaks to everyone’s lives.”

Bryan’s paintings follow her journey through cancer and chemotherapy, Bandeen said. All of them are abstract paintings, but some of them have symbolism, which depicts recognizable objects you may see in a hospital room, Bandeen said.

The exhibit will close March 21, she said.

Once the paintings leave the Toledo Museum of Art, they will come to the University, where they will be displayed in the gallery named after Bryan, which is located in the Fine Arts Center.

The exhibit will take place from April 12-29 and there will be an opening reception on April 13 from 5 to 7 p.m., said Jacqui Nathan, Fine Arts Center Galleries director.

“We are very honored to display these paintings,” Nathan said. “I think they’re wonderful paintings and I think they’re very meaningful.”

Bryan wrote an explanation of each of the paintings in the series explaining the process of making the painting, Nathan said. She also said the collection can be very inspirational.

“I think a lot of students, at one point or another, will have friends or relatives who’ve had to deal with cancer,” Nathan said.

Bryan and her family donated money to the University art department, but she was also actively involved in the school of art, Nathan said.

“She gave so much to the University,” Kanwischer said.

Bryan was a patron of the arts at the University and she had friends in the school of art, Kanwischer said. Her contributions may have taken the focus away from her talent, as giving became her identity, he said.

“She was a very good artist,” Kanwischer said.

The exhibit could be seen “as a way to give back to her and give her recognition as an artist that she may not have had in her lifetime,” he said.