CCAD faculty member and cancer survivor to show work at hospital gallery

Columbus College of Art & Design Associate Professor Julie Abijanac and Brandt-Roberts Galleries owner Michelle Brandt share a number of things in common: their passion for art, their love of Columbus, and their status as cancer survivors. 

Abijanac was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin's lymphoma nearly 15 years ago, and Brandt was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in 2018. Both women have undergone treatment, recovered, and had tests showing they’re cancer-free.

Now, the two are partnering on a show at The James Art Gallery at the OSUCCC — James.

The show, called Reflect, Refocus, Renew, was curated by Brandt and features 11 pieces by Abijanac. The exhibition will run from Nov. 7 through Dec. 19, 2019, and an opening reception will take place Thursday, Nov. 7, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“The work of Julie Abijanac deals with her personal struggle with cancer. She creates digital drawings and sculptures that explore the systematic development of cancer cell metastasis,” Brandt said. “Her works employ repetition and abstraction to create a beautiful byproduct from a difficult subject.”

“As a cancer survivor, you take time to reflect on your experience, and then you go through a renewal stage and figure out what you’re going to do next," Brandt said. 

For Abijanac, that meant drastically changing how she works as an artist. Following her doctor’s suggestion, she avoided things that could absorb into her skin or give off fumes. That meant switching from paints and metal to nontoxic materials like fiber and paper. 

julie close up

“During my first or second treatment, I was thinking, ‘How do I reinvent myself as an artist?’ So, I started to teach myself to crochet," Abijanac said. 

That led to a piece called Self portrait, a crocheted mohair piece made of brown nodules Abijanac made, which will be included in the show.

Reflect, Refocus, Renew is one of two shows that Brandt is curating for The James Art Gallery. The second show, which will feature work by Columbus-based painter Mark Gingerich and glass artist and CCAD grad Terri Albanese (Graphic Design, 1980), will open in January 2020.

“This particular exhibition is quite different than anything I’ve ever curated in my career because I am an Ohio state grad and I am a cancer survivor, and I know the impact that the hospital had on me and on the community as a whole," Brandt said. 

See more about the work in Alive, WCBE, on Spectrum News, and in The Dispatch.