Victorina Sanchez surveyed the blank canvas in front of her, then picked up a chalk pastel.
She drew an orange sun and blue clouds above spring-green grass, where purple, pink and blue flowers bloomed.
“My father loved the country,” she said.
Sanchez’s father died of stomach cancer in Mexico, only two months after he was diagnosed. She couldn’t be with him when he died, and that makes her sad. She misses him every day.
Sanchez and other Latinas who have been touched by cancer expressed their feelings through art therapy at the Healing Through Art program, sponsored by Christiana Care in partnership with the Delaware Art Museum. The July 6 event at the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington was one in a series of three workshops spearheaded by Luisa E. Ortiz-Marquez, BA, manager of the Healthy Latin Families/Promotoras program at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute. Events also took place at Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition and the Cancer Support Community of Delaware. Art from the program was displayed at the museum Aug. 23.
Ortiz-Marquez found comfort in painting after her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I cried and cried,” she recalled. “Then I would go down to my basement and paint and I would feel better.”
Kathy Hrenko, a certified art therapist at the museum, led the group, while Ortiz-Marquez translated in Spanish.
Hrenko told the women she understands the stress and sorrow people feel when a loved one has cancer. Both her mother and her grandmother had cancer. Her father is undergoing treatment for cancer.
“Art can help a lot of different people who have many life journeys,” she said. “The idea of art therapy is to express your feelings. The creative process is a very healthy and healing one.”
The women could choose from a variety of materials, including acrylic paints, oil pastels and pastel chalks. They wrote messages and quotations, and created collages with pictures clipped from magazines, buttons, fabric, sequins and pipe cleaners.
“We want you to have fun,” Hrenko said. “It’s supposed to be relaxing. Peaceful.”
Lupita Trujillo reached for gold glitter, which she applied to the full skirt of a dancer she drew on her canvas. She then drew a butterfly fluttering beneath a gold glitter sun.
“No matter what happens, always the sun shines,” she said.
Trujillo’s mother died of leukemia. She thinks art therapy and other programs that help people with cancer and their families are an important resource in the community.
“Getting the word out, helping more people is a good thing,” she said.
Ortiz applied pink acrylic paint to her own canvas. Five female figures emerged, standing close together — Ortiz and her four sisters.
“All my paintings are about the body. But it’s more than just the body,” she said. “It means we are five, all together, even when one of us is passing through a hard thing.”