JILL STANTON: RADIATION DIVA
Wife, sister, daughter, writer, performer, stage manager extraordinaire, thespian, unicorn
Diagnosed in 2009 at age 37
Jill believes in what’s invisible.
Every day for seven weeks, Jill Stanton hiked her body onto a metal table to expose her breast to radiation. While technicians ducked behind concrete walls to dodge the danger, Jill held still beneath the beam so it could kill away any rogue cancer cells that might have remained after her lumpectomy.
There was another unseen force in the air: music.
Lying prone and perfectly still beneath the beam, Jill closed her eyes and listened to the beat and the rhythm that poured from the speaker.
Jill remembered that exposure to radiation is a key element in many superhero origination stories. Every day during those long weeks, she concentrated on the lyrics of the music that played believing that each song contained a secret message that would expand the power of the radiation to keep the cancer away forever. Lying prone and perfectly still beneath the beam, she decoded the songs, listening for the superpowers that would help her to heal. To triumph.
“Imagining my superhero persona, and being able to smile about it — that’s how I coped. That’s what saw me through,” she said.
Jill believes in what can’t be seen. Because, like hope and determination, the power of what’s invisible can save us all.
DRAWING OUT THE SUPERHERO WITHIN: Artist’s notes
Jill and I have known each other for a long time. I was on the list of friends that got a daily post about music playing on the radio as she was treated, with her request for suggestions of superpowers she would get based on the songs. I was dumbfounded by Jill’s imagination and good humor in the face of her diagnosis.
Admiring Jill as she claimed the power that she needed to get through her treatment was part of what fired up this project.
Jill was my first portrait subject and we talked at length about an original costume. A seasoned performer, Jill wanted to be pictured with her feathered fans. In an inspired idea, she suggested transforming her hospital bracelets into Wonder Woman bracelets and I decided she would deflect breast cancer bullets. Jill fashioned a Disco-ball inspired bra that she wore for her photo shoot.
The challenge in this painting was to resist the urge to make it too busy. I had to make choices about what the viewer really needed to focus on – there is so much back story it would have been easy to tell too much.
At a certain point I knew it had to be about the pathways of the bullets. They are all around her but they aren’t getting to her.
Most of all, it had to be about the look in her eyes. It needed to say: ‘You can’t get me. I got this.’
– Barbara Porwit