The Indian Artist: Strands of Me

In honor of National Cancer Prevention Month, I thought that I would take a break from my regularly scheduled program of cultural stories to share a recent piece that I did commemorating one aspect of the difficulties that come with cancer.

For many people, hair can be a large part of their identity, image, and self-expression. Hair has a way of instilling confidence as well as portraying good health and hygiene. According to the Mayo Clinic, “You might not think about how important your hair is until you face losing it. And if you have cancer and are about to undergo chemotherapy, the chance of hair loss is very real. Both men and women report hair loss as one of the side effects they fear most after being diagnosed with cancer.” 

In my recent art piece done in graphite and colored pencil, I wanted to capture this extremely painful aspect of cancer. Titled Stands of Me, the piece reflects on this challenging side effect of cancer treatments, personifying the emotional toll that it can play on anybody facing it. In this piece, I show a woman looking down at a hand full of her fallen out hair with tears streaming from her eyes. Wrapped around her is a pink ribbon symbolizing the universal symbol for breast cancer, adding not only interest to the piece but also charging the true meaning behind it. 

For many, the loss of hair is a symbol to the world that you have cancer. It is a very difficult thing that many people facing cancer have had to deal with. Facing already a physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing condition, changes in appearance due to cancer treatment can further perpetuate loss and pain. I wanted to capture this in my artistic representation of cancer. Though cosmetic, the loss of hair has implications that travel much deeper than the surface. It no longer becomes about appearance. The hair loss is a constant reminder of the internal struggle that so many face. There are many of us with people in our lives who have cancer, and the aspect of hair loss is something so emotional and in and of itself symbolic that I wanted to portray it in a raw way that hopefully strikes a chord in anybody who sees it.

To anybody whose loved ones have or had cancer in any form, I pray for you all and my deepest condolences. Having family struggling with cancer myself, this piece was extremely impactful for me to make. Though one of my simpler pieces, a lot of meaning went into it and I hope that any of you who are reading this felt something different from this week’s post.

As always, if anything that I discussed in this post stood out or if any questions arise please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.




~ Riya


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Riya A

My name is Riya and I am currently a Freshman at Umich. Art has been a huge passion of mine from a very young age and in this column, I look forward to sharing my perspectives and outlooks on life through my personal work!

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