Finding Art in Age and Adversity

I would never say having cancer is a “gift.”  But I would say that gifts can come from having it.  And my friend Roz and I are perfect examples.

I was missing any “I” for art.  I didn’t even feel qualified to pick out gift wrap.

Having cancer changed everything.  With two small children and a terrible prognosis, it was impossible to escape from the stress and fear.  To my shock, all it took was a session at one of those little studios where you paint your own pottery—and I was hooked.

Not only did art take me away from cancer, it took me to a place I’d never been:  I was in “the flow”—so absorbed I lost track of time.  The more I created, the more I wanted to;   It was as if some door in my brain had been unlocked and suddenly  creativity flooded out where there had been nothing before.  My daughter is convinced that chemotherapy altered my DNA.

I had the same feeling when I saw the very same thing happen with my close friend from college.  Roz Milstein Meyer had a full life as a psychologist/therapist, community activist, and philanthropist —when overnight her world was turned upside down by a diagnosis of a highly aggressive Stage IV melanoma.  Her survival is remarkable in itself— and so is her emergence as an artist.  As Roz describes it:

I had never really thought of myself as an artist, although I always paid close attention to what I saw around me.

One of the things that mysteriously came out of my experience with cancer has been to see the world with new eyes.  As Marcel Proust noted “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Interestingly, my “new eyes” capture visual experiences that others often overlook.

The first summer after my diagnosis, after many months of difficult treatment and multiple week long hospitalizations, my husband gave me my first digital point and shoot camera. We were traveling to France, and it was a chance for me to try it out .

On this trip and another later that year, I loved to go off and take pictures of landscapes.  I was drawn to stillness. To reflections in water. To the play of light and wind on surfaces. To abstract, complex images that were hard to place.

Mysterious, evocative images captured my imagination.  And I was drawn to empty, silent places.  Time passed in an instant – I couldn’t believe how quickly.

I was completely taken up by picture making. Trying to capture a unique and fleeting moment when all the elements align in a particular way, never to be repeated. Some slant of light, intensity of color, complexity of texture, elegance of line or moment of stillness beckoned.  Perhaps I was trying to stop time. To capture time. I don’t know. Certainly time changed when I was taking pictures. I was completely in the moment.

And the more I look, the more I see.  It is an endless, self-renewing cycle. And it fills me with joy.

Her images–now exhibited in galleries and shows—are absolutely exquisite.  (Honestly I found it hard to choose what to show so hope you’ll click here to see her website)

How amazing and inspiring it’s been to see a hidden talent emerge in someone I’ve known for so long.  And how amazing for Roz to have a new career at the same time she became a new grandmother.

Roz and I—and Grandma Moses– aren’t the only ones to discover art late in life.  Call it reinvention; call us late bloomers; I call myself an accidental artist—the truth is that it’s a gift—anytime in life—to discover creativity within ourselves.  I’m also convinced that age and adversity can provide the catalyst to help us find something that wasn’t there before.    All we need to do, as Roz says, is have the vision to look with our “new eyes.”

To see more of Roz Meyer’s work, click here.

First published on

Also posted on the Huffington Post.

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  1. V says


    Thank you for sharing Roz’s story of transformation and, especially, her awe inspiring art.

    As you well know, I have always been an enthusiastic ( and confessedly biased ) fan of your own art. The silver lining of your cancer diagnosis opening up new, and previously untapped, creative expression has been a personal revelation to you, and a gift to others.

    But unlike your art, where you create something from nothing, Roz is able to capture things of amazing beauty and interest, that already exist, hidden in plain sight. That suggests, for all of us, there is much more ‘there’ there. And, if we open up our eyes a little wider….if our way of being is a little more appreciative….if we are a little more on the lookout for the ‘magic’ in life…that there is much more available from life than we may be currently experiencing – and, hopefully, it may not take a cancer diagnosis ,like yours or Roz’s, to access it.

  2. Denise Fisher says

    Brilliant and Brilliant. Amazing, love the way you were able to share both your journeys! Very gifted and talented!

  3. says

    Thanks; and glad you enjoyed Roz’s work. Her shots really are breathtaking; they look like paintings– it’s amazing what she can see—and capture.

  4. says

    Beautifully said, as always. You point out what’s most amazing to me about what Roz does—that she’s able to see what the rest of us miss. What you say —and what Roz says—is so true— that if we look out for the magic, it’s like seeing the world with “new eyes.”

  5. says

    Isn’t it amazing to discover such a gift so late in life? I still can’t get over it.
    Especially now that I’ve gone through every single shot in every single album in Roz’s gallery— I think every picture she takes is brilliant. Thanks so much, Denise.

  6. says

    Thanks so much for all your comments and appreciation! It really is amazing to discover this aspect of myself. I would never have even thought about doing this more seriously if another friend, Diane Fader, had not suggested that my work should be in a show. It has been such and extraordinary journey! And thank you Darryle for telling my story!

    Roz Meyer

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