The story of 2 paintings…

This week’s post deviates from the usual focus of this blog of the need for  integrating creativity and the arts in healthcare.  Instead, I write about 2 paintings created in 2004 titled, “Steely Resolve 1” and “Steely Resolve 2.”  This is their story…

A friend of mine, Donna, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 and had gone through the usual course of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  When we met again during the spring of 2004, we updated each other on life…she about her cancer treatments and family, and I on the new paintings I was working on – the synergy series.  At the time, she was experiencing new pain in her hip and lower back, and was scheduled for an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). 

Donna wanted to know more about the new synergy series which captures the synergy existing between the sciences, nature, illness and disease, and human and universal spirits.  In short, I ended up with her chest x-rays with her saying, “maybe you can use these in your art.”  Btw, the x-rays were taken months after she had completed chemotherapy and radiation.

I looked at the x-rays and laid them down.  As an artist, I have to let the creative process unfold and percolate, which means it may take a few hours, a few days or a few months to several years. As a nurse, I didn’t like what I was seeing on the x-rays.  A few days later, looking again at the chest x-rays, a medical report fell out of the large envelope.  While reading it, I was so overwhelmed with the gravity of my friend’s situation, diagnosis, prognosis, and her age.  From that moment, I knew how I would utilize the x-ray images.  mhand_steely-resolve-1-and-taxol-sm

What evolved is the painting titled “Steely Resolve 1” 

What do YOU experience when you look at the painting? 

The chest (thoracic) is the image taken from my friend’s x-rays.  The circular images represent Taxol, a drug used to treat breast cancer.  The vertebraes are painted silver for the color of steel. And the dark area in the verterbrae is where the cancer had spread and therefore, the pain in her lower back.

The most important thing I wanted to convey was hope, thus the colors of the rainbow for the background and outlining the body – universal hope and the fighting human spirit. 

After completing the painting, several people commented that all they saw was a big question mark.  This never occurred to me during the entire painting process, i.e., I never saw the question mark. I did not want my friend’s life to be in question or a question mark.  So, I immediately began another painting – of her healed.  The title of the 2nd painting is ‘Steely Resolve 2.’


                                                (Steely Resolve 2, 2004, Marti Hand)

Note: To see larger images of the paintings, go to and click ‘synergy series.’

For decades, the scientific and medical communities have focused on discovering a cure for cancer – without success.   It’s time to try or include something new to the treatment plan – offer creative interventions to patients and families!   Put care into the equation – caring for the whole person, i.e., body-mind-spirit-emotion with creative interventions. 

“When you’re treating advanced breast cancer, you’re not looking for a cure, you’re looking for stability and quality of life.” (Patient being treated at Vassar’s Dyson Center for Cancer, Poughkeepsie Journal)


For Donna…



4 responses to “The story of 2 paintings…

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