When her cancer treatment isolated her from the world, Longview resident Anne-Marie Carr used her art to reach out.
Carr created a piece of art every day for 100 days during her treatment and recovery in 2016 and posted each piece on Instagram. Her “100 Day Project: An Art Journey Through Leukemia” exhibit is on display in the Rose Center for the Arts gallery at Lower Columbia College.
The exhibit features a mix of small, square pieces and larger framed artworks. Some are paintings, others are photographs and a few are a mix of both. Most of the works are brightly colored, dominated by pink and green.
“There’s a lot of greens because it was spring, so it’s all about growth and getting better,” Carr said.
The 41-year-old Kelso High School art and ceramics teacher was diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia in April 2016. She started treatment two weeks later at the Lower Columbia Cancer Center in Longview.
Hairy cell leukemia is a rare, slow-growing blood cancer. The bone marrow makes too many B cells and produces fewer healthy blood cells. A majority of people with this cancer experience complete or partial remission through chemotherapy.
After her first couple days of treatment, Carr said she found out about #The100DayProject from social media and decided to join in. Anyone can participate in the global art project by using the hashtag and posting photos of the action they choose to do every day for 100 days. Carr started her endeavor with sketches and photographs before transitioning to painting.
“It really kept me going,” Carr said.
The project also was a way for Carr to interact with the world, because her treatment prevented her from being around people. Even though she still spoke with family and friends, just one nice comment on her artwork went a long way, she said.
“The feedback I got was my dialogue,” she said. “I think social media can be a positive tool.”
Flowers are the subject of many of Carr’s paintings because of the flowers she received during treatment. Some pieces show scenes from Scotland, Carr’s homeland.
Carr said it was difficult to sustain making a piece every day for 100 days, but it was good discipline.
“I loved that kind of challenge,” she said. “People think artists just pull creativity out of the air, but you have to work at being creative.”
The ups and downs of Carr’s treatment are reflected in her work. Some pieces have less energy than others because of how she was feeling that day, she said. One self-portrait is done in bright pink, but the look on her face in the painting shows it wasn’t Carr’s best day.
Sticking with the project helped her recovery, she said. Support of the project from doctors helped encourage her to keep going with it. She said they promoted whole-self care and “doing whatever it takes to make yourself feel good.”
Carr applied last September to exhibit her project at the Rose Center art gallery and was accepted for a solo show. She said people like the story behind the work. The exhibit will be up until Oct. 11.
Carr is working to display some of the pieces from the project at the Lower Columbia Cancer Center, where she was treated. She said she wants to show people what she accomplished during her treatment.
Since finishing the project, Carr said she paints less, but she still makes art, including ceramics.
“I always hope to be creative,” she said. “It’s a part of me.”