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"Strength in Connection" Journal

"Strength in Connection" Journal

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Inspiration: Claudia Lechance
Artist: Rachel Gingold

Claudia's Twist on Cancer: A silly game I play. Choose a friend and agree to say ‘rabbit, rabbit’ to each other on the first day of every month. Whoever says it first to the other gets all the good luck for the month. I am slightly superstitious. I remember the feeling so vividly. The feeling of that pang in my chest when Zach’s diagnosis became final. Every glimmer of hope that it was just a cold was suddenly erased from this planet. Worse yet, did I give cancer to my child? I had to ask the question. I needed to know. I am horrible at not knowing and telling the truth. The year was 2014, and at that time, genetic testing was not as sophisticated as we know it now. The answer I got from the oncologist, quite simply, in layman’s terms, was that Zach’s lymphoma was a “fluke.” I did not like hearing that word to describe Zach’s fate. It felt so trivial, even if I felt a little exonerated, and it felt so unacceptable. How is it possible that our little family had such bad luck to be dealt the cancer challenge again? I absolutely had to change the narrative, especially since neither Zach, Tyler, nor Dylan had ever been told about my diagnosis up until that point. How do you explain a chronic illness that went into spontaneous remission to an audience of boys ages six, four, and less than one? Surely they were too young at that time to understand what was happening inside their mom. With a tremendous amount of guilt about Zach beating me into chemo—I am still processing that reality—it was time for an open conversation. So, there we sat, on his hospital bed, moments before I told him about his treatment plan, looking into each other’s eyes, me sharing the news about my own health first. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. And then, quite unexpectedly, it was beautiful, too. Because somehow, my struggle turned into an inspiration, and together we held on tightly to each other and the belief that we would both be okay.

Rachel's Artist Statement: In my artwork, "Strength in Connection," I endeavor to convey the profound resilience and interconnectedness inherent in the human spirit. This painting was inspired by Claudia and her son, Zach, both remarkable cancer survivors. This painting features two intertwined trees, symbolizing the enduring strength and shared experiences of those who have confronted life's formidable challenges. The painting draws its inspiration from a 100-year-old oak tree showing signs of decay, its largest branch holding a swing—a symbol of joy found amidst adversity. This majestic tree closely mirrors Claudia's journey, marked by the passage of time and the necessity of external support to stand tall. Like the tree, Claudia embodies the indomitable spirit of a survivor. Beneath the trees, intricate roots connect, bearing messages that reflect the wisdom forged in the struggle and the bonds formed with fellow travelers on life's journey. These messages serve as a powerful reminder that strength is derived from the connections we nurture. My artistic technique employs layers of paint and texture mediums to evoke the complexity of the human experience. I meticulously use washes, colored glazes, and metallic paints to bring forth the forms from the canvas, emphasizing the interplay of light and texture. My broader body of work explores the concept of trees as human-like beings, celebrating their strength and universal presence. Trees, much like people, are inherently unique, yet deeply interconnected. They inspire me to pay tribute to Claudia, who stands resolutely through life's trials. In "Strength in Connection," I extend an invitation to viewers to contemplate the resilience of the human spirit and the profound power of connection in the face of adversity. Just as the intertwined trees support each other, we too can find strength in the bonds of our shared journey through life.

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