Jill Dubbeldee Kuhn: Layers

April 7, 2016 - May 9, 2016
Gorecki Gallery, CSB

The exhibition title of Layers expresses my varied interests in creating art in a range of conventional and unconventional materials.  One step into the gallery reveals this truth.  However, layers represent more than just the actual brushstrokes of paint on canvas or wood. A series of colorful landscapes and whimsy also engages my exploration about beauty, belonging and home. Another layer reveals a sculptural bas-relief series with cow bones making me question my feelings about used parts and eating meat.  

Little did I know that another layer would weave its way into my inner world a year ago. A sketchbook became the time capsule for my experience with breast cancer. Radiate: Sixteen Days of Radiation is the result of those recordings.  I am one of the lucky ones. Early detection followed by a lumpectomy and a short course of radiation left me with a great diagnosis. This art is about me and yet it isn't about me.  Cancer is a shared mind-boggling reality in so many people's life.  How can something be both unordinary and ordinary at the same time? Yet art becomes that for me.

Making art fuels my never ending curiosity to the whys.  It helps me make sense of the world and my place in it.  Art allows me to slip into spaces and imagined perspectives where relationships between negative and positive shapes don't always make sense.  After digging through many of my elemental layers during my career as an artist, I will concur that saturated color is my delight and pattern, my best friend; but it's those pencil drawings that always keep me honest.

Radiate: Sixteen Days of Radiation

The art series Radiate was born from the daily recordings and drawings of any particular idea, image, or experience I encountered while receiving sixteen radiation treatments following the removal of a walnut sized cancerous tumor in my right breast.

Drawing and journaling calmed my spirit from the bizarre news of my body having the "C" word.  My sketchbook was a distraction and a safe place to process this new world.

The thick sketchbook scanned images recreated the tactility, vulnerability and slices of time of my actual drawings and writings.  Even the simple permission to pick up the pages placed on the pedestals provide an unusual relationship between the viewer and the art. . . .like talking about cancer with someone who has it.  Careful. Concerned. Curious. 

Radiate days capture honest sometimes funny reflective ramblings. However, Day 9 is the one that will always stand out for me. It was the day I was finally able to place my own image with the sound of radiation.  It was a high pitched singing cicada. Later after I researched cicadas, I found them to be masters of transformation as the insect discards its useless shell and moves onto new found wings and a way of life.  Short course radiation or what I now think of as cicadation transformed me from a woman with breast cancer to one without.  Just as cicadas represent a new level of enlightenment with each shell shedding and chance to fly, my radiating cicada sang my cancer away and left me full of gratitude.

Remember to feel free to pick up the Radiate Days series and leave responses about these works in the sketchbooks located in "the waiting room".  


Dubbeldee Kuhn is a fiscal year 2015 recipient of an Artist Career Development Grant from the Central Minnesota Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board and legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.