If Hope was Money, I’d be a Millionaire

Parking MapOn Display July 5-31, 2018

Opening Reception July 10, 2018, 4:30-6:30pm

Criser Cancer Resource Center, 1515 SW Archer Road, Room 1302

Please join UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine in celebrating original works by Iris Coe-Gross. Iris is a former Bone Marrow Transplant nurse who began artmaking after her stage IV metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. She created this exquisite collection of survivor portraits while undergoing treatment.

Artist Statement

Iris Coe Signature pieceMy name is Iris Coe-Gross. Art found me three and a half years ago after my first treatment for stage four metastatic breast cancer. I first used art as a way to express gratitude and thanks to the many family, friends, and strangers who helped carry me and my family through treatment. One card turned to five, to twenty, and more and more and more. Painting these cards gave me the mind space to focus, escape, pray, give thanks, and feel free from my diagnosis. I worked first with watercolors and then expanded to oils and acrylics. This last bout with cancer I became very ill and too tired to paint. At the time it was a loss to be unable to paint but it opened a door for drawing which has been my greatest pleasure and pride.

I work in the intuitive art style. I had never sought lessons or rules for what I was doing. In the beginning it was just a need to work and create. I wanted to leave pieces of me for my children as my grandfather, a great artist, had left for us. There was no time for class or video. I felt an urgency and did not want to waste any time trying to learn in a formal setting, away from my family. My paintings are wretched with layers of fuss, trying to cover the imperfections and make seen on canvas what is in my head. With intuitive drawing there are no imperfections. All drawings are completed in indelible marker. All drawings are freehand. Nothing can be erased. Everything is as it was meant to be and I must deal and work with the lines I have drawn. My eyes do not lay on the paper but for a glance. By glancing at the paper, I can keep space but not critique my work and second guess what I’m doing with each line. The point is not creating a perfect picture but to focus on my subject with intention and thoughtfulness. To know this is not a refection of me but a message being delivered by my subject.

It is not to say that I do not wish to learn from great artists and teachers. Art makes me feel good. It is pure right now. I want to stay here, in this place of mine, where judgment is slight and emotion is what pushes my hand. Art is a friend who I have shared these hard times with. She has helped me express on canvas and paper what my words would fumble to say. I do not want to taint it just yet as anything more than that.

UF Health Shands was where I was born, worked as a nurse, gave birth to my babies, was treated for stage 4 breast cancer twice, and have had my life saved four times. Since the original show, “If Hope was Money, I’d be a Millionaire” was displayed the women’s stories have changed. Diagnoses changed, prognoses changed, and one dear survivor has passed. Looking at the portraits now evokes such a different emotion in me than before. There will be additional survivor portraits at the showing of the series as it is an ongoing study of survivors.