Amid the patchwork of phrases and beneath the bronze glaze of Deb Johnson’s mask, there is a quote that has been attributed to Hippocrates: “The forms of diseases are many and the healing of them is manifold.” Photo courtesy of Joan’s Fund.
Johnson was one of 26 artists in central Ohio who spent many months transforming head-and-neck cancer patients’ used radiation masks into beautiful things. Fifteen artists from Studios on High Gallery, where Johnson’s work is exhibited, participated.
Commissioned by the Joan Levy Bisesi Foundation for Head and Neck Oncology Research, more commonly known as Joan’s Foundation, the artists’ works of art will be auctioned off in October at a gala being held in Columbus in conjunction with a research retreat for The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital, otherwise known as the OSUCCC-James.
Today, the shredded JBC pages lay bonded, overlapped and glossed – deconstructed and reconstructed in a meaningful way. Johnson titled the piece “Ascension: From Research to Treatment to Cure.”
“My goal was to create something with presence,” Johnson explains, “something that illustrated the significance of this disease and the research to help those affected. If the viewer’s eyes ascend from base to mask, the message is of research leading to treatments and at last, finally, a cure.”
The term “head and neck cancer” is used to describe various carcinomas in the nasal cavity, sinuses, mouth, throat or larynx. Most such cancers emerge first in the squamous cells that line mucosal surfaces. The National Cancer Institute estimates that head and neck cancers account for about 3 percent to 5 percent of all cancers in the United States.
For a long time, the disease was seen primarily in men and older patients, and common risk factors were thought to be smoking, chewing tobacco, drinking and exposure to certain environmental elements. Today, more attention is being paid to the occurrence of head and neck cancer among women, particularly younger women, and the role human papillomavirus might play is being explored.