In May 2009, Lisa Daria Kennedy embarked on an art project that she has no intention of ever completing. Every day, which for Lisa usually begins at 5 a.m., she does a small painting of an ordinary object. She hasn’t missed a day, and recently passed the 1,200 mark.
Sometimes it takes her an hour to finish, sometimes three, but time doesn’t matter. What does matter, she says, is that each painting is “evidence that I was there.”
About 10 years ago time was important to her, because she thought she might have reached the end of her life before it had hardly begun.
Lisa, who has degrees in graphic design and illustration, was working as a commercial artist in the Boston area when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was only 29.
After six rounds of chemotherapy, one month of radiation therapy, and now, years of monitoring to make sure she is still cancer free, her perspective has evolved.
“When I was sick, I had a lot of time to think about what I wasn’t doing,” she says. “Painting was one of those things, so when I was well, I began to paint more. Having cancer also gave me permission to go ahead and pursue things that I’d always wanted to pursue. I’d always wanted to work for myself, so I became a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. I also realized that living, for me, wasn’t just surviving. I wanted to create a way to make sure I preserved each day.”
Her first endeavor at trying to preserve each day was to create what she calls “The Big C Visual Journal.” She invites other cancer survivors to use the online journal to record their stories.
“Record your survival of cancer here,” states the explanation on Lisa’s website. “Write anything you want. Leave your mark. The only requirement is to be a cancer survivor.”
Although several people have contributed, Lisa realized that she needed to do more than sit back and wait for people to add their stories. She needed to leave her own mark. Thus was born the daily paintings idea.
Her paintings reflect spontaneity and joy. She uses bright, bold colors and tones each 6-inch-by-6-inch canvas with red because, she says, it is the color of energy. The titles, which usually don’t match the subject matter, represent what was going on that particular day.
For instance, number 918 is a painting of a pepper on a plate, but the title is “Going Up.”
“It’s in reference to the elevator ride to my oncologist’s new office at Dana Farber for my yearly exam,” says Lisa, who lives in Massachusetts but is connected to Maine through painting workshops she’s done here.
If she felt any anxiety about the appointment, and certainly she must have, you’d never guess by looking at that day’s painting. Instead, you might notice how she filled the empty spaces with light, just like she seems to fill each day with light. The evidence is there for all to see.
If you would like to see the evidence for yourself or would like to contribute to Lisa’s “Big C Visual Journal,” visit her website and blog at lisadariakennedy.com.
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