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WMU grad depicts disease, recovery in art show

by Mark Schwerin

April 15, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Walk a Fine Line painting by Rachel Castle Herzer.
"Walk a Fine Line," by Rachel Castle Herzer

KALAMAZOO--An exhibit of oil paintings by a Western Michigan University graduate depicting her experience with cancer is on display through May 16 in the second floor gallery of the College of Health and Human Services.

Rachel Castle Herzer graduated from WMU last year with a bachelor's degree in fine art. Pieces in the exhibit, titled "Emergence," were inspired by her own bout with thyroid cancer and representations of self-portraiture and suffering throughout art history.

For Herzer, the work is an attempt to examine the lasting effects of disease as well as the ability of humankind to persevere and recover. The exhibit--a series of large self-portraits--contemplates the struggle to cut ties with cancer despite its entanglement within the delicate balance of the future.

"Although these paintings are intensely personal," Herzer says, "I hope that many people will be able to identify with the common experiences that they describe."

Through this examination of her relationship with life and health, Herzer experienced renewal and catharsis, the purging of negative emotions and memories through artistic expression.

For more information, contact Gay Walker, program coordinator for the college's Holistic Health Program, at (269) 387-3839 or