Following her fourth cancer diagnosis, which resulted in a double mastectomy in 2011, Hinsdale resident Andrea Feldman was overcome with dejection.
Her future felt uncertain, her life in freefall.
She also had lost her hair, her confidence. She felt like she was losing grip with the world, until she picked up a paint brush.
That turned out to be her salvation.
While undergoing chemotherapy and too miserable to do much else, the amateur artist would paint a collection of work that will be showcased at the Little Gallery at Deb Koffman's Artspace in Housatonic. The exhibit, "The Artful Warrior -- How painting helped me survive cancer," will premiere today from 3 to 5 p.m. and run through Sept.
"It was something to hold on to during this time," Feldman, 62, said.
Feldman was first diagnosed with cancer in 1993, and she's been battling cancer off and on up until May 2012 when doctors told her she was in remission. Feldman has been diagnosed with breast cancer three times and uterine cancer once.
In 2011, Feldman underwent a double mastectomy after her doctors told her she had the BRCA gene, which increases the likelihood she would deal with cancer again. While recovering from surgery and dealing with cancer therapy, she developed a collection of artwork by painting at least an hour a day.
Feldman's doctor told her she was in short supply of white blood cells. So she drew them, hoping to will herself into producing more.
Instead, these spherical and circular drawings painted in watercolors -- she describes her work as "original" -- turned out to be therapeutic.
"Feeling like a sick person is a terrible thing for me and feeling hopeless is a terrible thing," Feldman said. "If there is one thing I want to offer up, we don't have to give up our power to the illness. We don't have to give in to the misery. ... I found the place inside I could go to that was peaceful, nurturing and comforting when I thought I could go crazy."
The collection that will be showcased includes watercolor and pastel paintings of white blood cells, self-portraits, and there are other paintings that include layered paintings drawn with pastels over watercolors.
Feldman was thrilled when she was approached by gallery owner Deb Koffman. There had been a cancellation at the gallery and Koffman asked Feldman if she'd be interested in filling the space for a month.
Feldman described the art exhibit as "coming out" with cancer, and she said, "I am flying high and I am so happy."
On Sept. 21, Feldman will also provide a slide presentation and talk on her work. The talk and exhibit is free of charge and open to the public.
"I want them to look at them and not think that it's a cancer show, but a show about life and living and not being sick," Feldman said.
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If you go ...
What: "The Artful Warrior -- How painting helped me survive cancer" by Hinsdale resident Andrea Feldman. The exhibition will include paintings, self-portraits, and photos with descriptions.
When: Today from 3 to 5 p.m. The free show will be open for public viewing every Saturday in September.
Where: The Little Gallery at Deb Koffman's Artspace, 137 Front St., Housatonic.
For more: Feldman's work can also be viewed at www.paperclipstudio.com.