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Sacramento State News - California State University, Sacramento March 6, 2007

A wife's battle with ovarian cancer is
topic of Sacramento State art exhibition


Survivor by John Magnan
Survivor by John Magnan

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"Body Image/Body Essence," Massachusetts artist John Magnan's powerful response to his wife's diagnosis of ovarian cancer, will be on display from March 24 to April 27 at the Library Gallery Annex at Sacramento State.  

As his wife, Mary Magnan, underwent seven years of ultimately unsuccessful treatment for ovarian cancer, Magnan channeled his fear and helplessness into wood, metal and medical castoffs, such as discarded chemotherapy ports and plastic hospital ID cards, to create art that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit.

Artistically, "Body Image/Body Essence" explores the conflict between "who I am" and "what I look like" faced by women with ovarian cancer after invasive surgery and follow-up treatments. Using hair loss, the well-known side-effect of chemotherapy, as the primary visual imagery, nearly every sculpture deals with hair or its absence.

"Body Image/Body Essence" also addresses other aspects of changed self-image, both heavy and lighthearted. Serious issues of scarring, fatigue and fertility can be found in some pieces, but so can playful explorations of "chemo brain," or hair that refuses to grow back the same as before.

Last year, Sacramento State and UC Davis Cancer Center formed a Partnership to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities through Education, Research and Training, with a goal of combining the resources of both institutions to promote cancer awareness, prevention and early detection throughout the region, especially in medically underserved communities. The Partnership has teamed up with the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition to present this exhibition.

"We're proud to be able to help bring this exhibition and the series of ovarian cancer awareness activities to our community and respective campuses," said David Earwicker, assistant vice president for research administration at Sacramento State and co-chair of the Partnership Board. "It's a compelling example of how Sacramento State and the UC Davis Cancer Center now work together on aspects of cancer research, education and awareness to benefit everyone in our region."

The partnership has planned a number of activities to increase awareness of
ovarian cancer among a variety of populations. At Sacramento State, young survivors of ovarian cancer will tell their stories to nursing students, peer health educators and women's studies classes. The artist, John Magnan, will personally train student docents to lead tours of the exhibition.

UC Davis Cancer Center will host "An Evening with Experts," a free community education forum at the UC Davis Cancer Center auditorium, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., on April 26. It will feature scientist-physicians from UC Davis who are seeking earlier detection methods and more therapies to treat ovarian cancer.

"This exhibition gives voice to the patient's perspective," says Bonnie Raingruber, director of the Center for Health and Human Services Research at Sacramento State.   "It reminds us to talk to patients during routine screenings and to educate the public about this tragic disease which is so easily ignored because of the vague nature of the symptoms."

The Library Annex Gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays – Saturdays. Admission is free. For more information, contact the University Library Gallery at (916) 278-4189 or visit  For media assistance, contact the Sacramento State Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.


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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •