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The Perfect Storm
Cancer is a tough and touchy subject, especially for those who have experienced the loss of a loved one. In 2009, St. Louis-based artist Margaret Adams was faced with this exact tragedy. Rather than avoiding or abhorring the disease, she was affected in a wholly new way.
“I was just struck by the idea that some form of disease could create a perfect storm in the body,” she says.
A lawyer by trade, Margaret recently got involved in art, a childhood passion that’s always been in the back of her mind. For this series, she began with a bit of medical research and by trolling the Internet. The combination of research and a variety of artistic experiments in her studio led to her complete series on cancer. Margaret titled her series “Undifferentiated Borders,” a descriptor of the invulnerable type of cancer her family member experienced. “I was taken by that phrase, and that’s where my work took off.”
Cancer has a way of touching every family in some way or another. It picks at will and at random. Her paintings feel much the same way. Her loose, diluted paint allows the cells to bleed from their borders and spread into other cells. There is no distinction of border or boundary; it might as well continue indefinitely.
“I kept going with the project until I really didn’t want to anymore,” Margaret says. She believes she accomplished what she set out to do by making cancer visible in an emotional way.
“If you take the time to be with the work, it creates an impression.” Her goal was to encourage people to think about cancer in a different way. “That’s what artists do,” she says.
Margaret recognizes that there may be resistance to her work for the troubling imagery and the deep personal losses people have felt from cancer.
But she says her work also has the opportunity to give people strength.
A woman who lost her husband to cancer told Margaret that she was prepared to hate the entire series but actually ended up liking it. Some people have told her that the paintings are just beautiful, with the pink tones, yellow ochre, and Indian red palette.
Painting this series on cancer provided Margaret with a path to recovery, and she hopes others feel a genuine personal response to her work.
She says this response is unique to all viewers and their experiences with the disease. “It was part of my grieving process—to get my feelings of the overwhelming nature of the disease out,” she says. “I think there are a lot of people who would admire the work in that way.”
Now that this series is complete, Margaret is looking for inspiration. “I have ideas, but I haven’t decided yet, which is kind of exciting and terrifying for me,” she says. Choosing an idea is the hardest part; once she decides, she’ll create a body of work pretty quickly.
Her work can be viewed at the Bruno David Gallery in St. Louis or online at www.brunodavidgallery.com.