How Radiation-Mask Art Helps Artists Heal, Grieve, and Honor Survivors


In December 2020, the Cancer Support Community AZ approached gallery director Michael Denson about a new exhibit. “It was an exciting concept where artists were given radiation masks of cancer patients and commissioned to create works of art based on the patient’s story,” Denson tells POPSUGAR. “At the time of our initial planning, my father and sister both were suffering through cancer diagnosis and treatments.” While visiting his sister, Denson noticed a radiation mask sitting in the corner of her room, and asked if he could use it in the upcoming exhibit. “She kindly agreed, leaving me with the words, ‘It reminds me of what I’ve been through.’ I came back with her radiation mask, determined to capture her story as I saw it play out, as she continued her battle.”

Denson used acrylic and ink on wood for the final piece, entitled “Pushing Through” — a tribute to his sister. “Like a beautiful lotus climbing, reaching, making its way through mucky waters, she pushed through. Through sadness, disappointment, isolation, pain, frustration, and innumerable unknowns, she pushed through,” he says. “Unfortunately she lost her battle with cancer. But her story remains. She taught us how to keep fighting, for family, for love, for life. She taught us how to break through the dark waters and blossom in the light.”

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