MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Vincent Van Goh once said, “There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” Love was precisely the inspiration for a Gastonia woman, who used her brush to document her dad’s fight for his life.
“It’s something that I feel I have some kind of control over,” Laura Sexton said, working on a piece at Arts on the Greenway in Mount Holly.
Behind the color wheel, Laura drives the finished product. But last year, the artist encountered an image she had absolutely no control over — her dad’s brain tumor.
“They were pretty sure it was a glioblastoma because of how aggressive it was,” she told Queen City News. “He was diagnosed in August of 2021 when he fell and broke his hip. While in the hospital he got COVID…so he was getting radiation, chemo, and COVID at the same time… and it was really stressful.”
That’s when she faced the stark possibilities.
“It was really hard in December because I was convinced that was his last birthday and his last Christmas,” she said.
A cathartic burst of creativity followed.
“Currently, I’m working on a series based on my father’s treatment for his brain tumor,” she says of her series entitled “Patient Care,” which illustrates the journey.
One is a painting of Roger getting much-needed rest. Another shows him in bed at home in the comfort of their cat, Plooshie. There’s a piece that portrays the moment his head was shaved before starting treatment.
“Mom’s a little self-conscious, but her hands are in every picture…so that she can get some of the healing vibes too,” Sexton said.
Laura introduced us to her family and artistic inspiration in Newton.
“We get to come hang out with you,” she said to her dad Roger Killian.
He and his wife Diana have been married for nearly 52 years.
“Where she and I met was in Ithaca, NY,” Roger recalls.
“And his pick-up line was, ‘You look like you’re from my home state.’” Diana said. “And I said, ‘Where’s that?’”
Originally from Texas, Roger is a gentleman and a scholar.
“Classical civilization and Classical Culture: Greek and Latin,” he said of his degrees.
Diana has a Ph.D. in Farm Animal Reproductive Physiology.
“Tell them how you used to tell your friends,” she said, setting her husband up for a punchline.
“‘Pig sex’ ha ha!” Roger says proudly.
Yep, there’s a lot of intriguing family history.
Unfortunately, the tumor diagnosis stopped them in their tracks.
“We didn’t know what it was…and I didn’t know a lot about it,” he said, soon getting a crash course in glioblastoma. “These are some of the other people that have had it and have died: John McCain, Bo Biden.”
Laura appreciates the beauty in what her folks have together.
“And I like started taking little pictures along the way. I took pictures of mom and dad being cute together and stuff like that…because I knew they were going to need those, because we don’t want to forget,” she says.
Pics of Diana kissing her hubby on the head, or of the two out on an ice cream date. Their daughter couldn’t leave a tender moment alone.
When I asked what her father thought of the collection, he gave me the “okay” sign.
“It’s wonderful… she can do almost anything,” Roger said.
Paintings in the “Patent Care” series are on display at the Arts Council of Fayetteville through May 21.
Laura hopes the pieces give solace to other families going through similar circumstances.
“I want people who are in that dark place where they think they’re about to lose someone to see the process represented,” she says.
She embraced the chance to convey the reality of her dad and his loving support system — Plooshie the cat included.
“Yeah, she would sleep with me and still does,” he said, with the cat in his lap.
Roger’s appreciation for loved ones has grown. Meanwhile, a recent scan of his brain tumor seems to paint a different picture.
“It’s like shrunk 75 percent. The doctors that have looked at it are very, very impressed,” Roger reported. “First of all, they were astounded when they saw the second one…. They didn’t think I’d live that long.”
Going through a health crisis is not an exact science. But as Laura shows, there’s an art to preserving fleeting memories, even during unsure times.
“This is something I can do to feel like I have some kind of control over the situation,” she said.
For more on Laura Sexton’s work, please click here.