Issue 7 Stories
Philanthrophy

The Hope in a Blank Canvas

Jane Goodman, an artist who works primarily in oil paints, pastels and watercolors, is not intimidated by a blank canvas. Instead, she views the empty white space as an opportunity to express herself by melding images from her imagination and memory with observations from the real world.

“Creativity is a life source,” says Goodman, owner of Yellow Cardinal Studio on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. “I’m always looking for inspiration in the real world by reaching into my imagination—thinking about where I’ve been, where I’d like to go, what I’ve read about and so on. All of those elements build that connection between the outer world and the inner world. Expressing oneself is really essential in life, and trying to express oneself through the visual arts is very satisfying.”

“Low Tide” (one of two gifts of art)

A three-time cancer survivor, Goodman has experienced the power of art to bring comfort and healing during days of pain, discomfort, uncertainty and fear. She recently donated two of her original oil paintings to the art collection at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in hopes that future patients and their families can experience the same positive feelings during their time in the hospital.

“I’ve admired the art collection at Sentara Martha Jefferson, and I’ve benefited from it because art resonates with me,” says Goodman, who majored in studio art at Connecticut College. “During my illnesses, I found that I felt better in the environments where there was art on the wall. I found it to be relaxing and cheering, and it helped to alter my mood. As a survivor, I thought it would be a nice way to give back to the hospital.”

Goodman donated two pieces to the hospital: one a seascape scene, and the other of peonies in a vase. She hopes the seascape will draw in patients and visitors, allowing them to imagine themselves in that setting. She considers the floral painting to be “edgier,” with full, bright flowers standing tall.

“Those flowers remind me that once a person is healed, they’re very strong and powerful,” Goodman says. “It’s a cheerful, bold and hopeful statement that I hope will inspire patients and their families.”

Goodman’s journey with cancer began around 1992, when she was diagnosed with cancer in the left breast at age 46. After undergoing a unilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy treatments, Goodman was healthy until 2014, when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which was treated with a hysterectomy and chemotherapy. Two years later, she was diagnosed with cancer in the right breast and underwent successful surgery and chemo treatments. She is considered a high-risk patient, carrying the BRCA genetic mutation that is associated with breast and ovarian cancers.

Throughout the most difficult days of her illnesses, Goodman kept a pencil and sketchbook within reach.

“Each time I got sick and really couldn’t be up and about enjoying life—when I had to be still—I went back to my art,” says Goodman, who was treated at other hospitals. “So each time I was sidelined, the thing that made me feel good, made me feel positive and kept me centered was going back to drawing or painting or watercolors.”

A former actress living in New York City, Goodman also owned an award-winning advertising and public relations agency. She has been a senior public affairs official with an aviation labor group and with the Federal Aviation Administration, from which she retired in 2010.

Goodman now devotes her time to painting, traveling and writing. Last year she visited Italy and is planning a trip to France in the fall, where she’ll take an art course taught by an artist she admires. She exhibits her work at galleries around the state and recently won “Best of Show” at a gallery in Gloucester, Va.

Goodman teaches art courses and hopes to help other cancer survivors experience the healing power of “getting lost in paint.”

“For me, art was a way to stay in a healthy mental place during the times when I was very sick while undergoing chemotherapy,” says Goodman, who also enjoys spending time with her son, Alex; daughter-in-law; and grandson. “When you’re painting, you’re creating your own universe in that canvas. If you want to make the sky pink, you can make it pink. You can make it whatever you want. When you have cancer, you feel at a loss for any control. You feel like your body is betraying you. When I was drawing or painting, I could control it, and that was helpful when I otherwise felt overwhelmed by an anxious state of mind and uncertainty. When you create something nice, with good colors and form, it’s very affirming—you feel like everything in the universe is in the right order.”

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