Using art to understand cancer

Lana Bandoim's picture

Art has the ability to transform a person’s life and help others understand emotions that may be difficult to communicate. Studies have shown that art can be a powerful tool for cancer patients by helping them express their needs, thoughts and feelings. In a recent interview, artist Joseph J. Sherman shares how his artwork connects to cancer, and how he is helping others by creating unique paintings.


Joseph J. Sherman, who is an abstract expressionist painter, is influenced by Vincent van Gogh, Marc Chagall, Joan Mitchell and Jackson Pollock. His artwork reveals the conscious and subconscious levels of the human mind. His experience at the age of 16 at the University of California Riverside also influences his art. Sherman had the opportunity to work with the National Institutes of Health on a neurotransmitter sensor project.


After his friend started to fight brain cancer, art and the disease merged for Joseph J. Sherman. Brain tumors can affect a person’s speech, hearing, memory, vision and motor skills. However, the patient often has difficulty expressing his problems and loved ones can also become frustrated.

“People suffering from brain tumors lose the regular use of their brains. It can be devastating. People suffer from mild cognitive problems, such as memory loss, to severe cognitive disturbances. It can be hard for family and friends to understand this. What are they going through? What do they feel? Why are they so forgetful and lost all the time? This is especially challenging for children who do not understand what is going on,” Sherman explains.

Joseph J. Sherman turned to his art to help his friend and discovered he could help others dealing with brain cancer. He shares, “In my painting, I attempt to show the inner struggle of a patient suffering from neurological damage. What is it like to go through this? How can others relate? I painted the longing of the patient to find peace in a world of confusion. It’s something that looks at times calm and then at others disoriented. I went into the inner soul of the patient, felt his terror and then felt his peace.” He is currently working on a series of paintings related to cancer with pieces focusing on faith, pain, loss and hope.


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