When artist-in-residence Denise Feldman was deciding what to hang on the walls at Main Street, she kept coming back to one theme, something that played an important role in her own life: Hope.
A Rockville native and breast cancer survivor who recently became a grandmother, Feldman considers herself a mixed-media artist. She paints but she isn’t a painter. She enjoys stitching, but she isn’t a quilter. “It gives me the permission to use whatever materials I’d like,” she says.
Feldman discovered the “power of creativity as a healing practice” when she was battling cancer in 2014. Soon after she finished treatment, she traveled to a workshop where artists were making altered books, a form of artwork that involves reimagining a published book as something different. “It was a Pandora’s box for me,” she says. “I just kinda let things flow, and this book became my vehicle, my vessel for telling the story of my breast cancer journey and all the emotions and experiences associated with that.”
She used fabric, paper, buttons, beads, yarn, paint and more. She collaged and journaled. She wrote poetry. On one page is a series of stamped numbers: 15, for the number of chemotherapy treatments she needed; 37, for the rounds of radiation. On another page there’s a quote that reads: Never be ashamed of a scar. It simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you. “There’s a page around losing my hair, a page around finding this sisterhood that I never intended to be part of,” Feldman says. “I was looking for a way to honor that experience but not have to carry it with me every day, so this book became a way for me to heal.”
Feldman brought the book with her to Main Street last month for the opening of her art exhibit, “Pockets of Hope.” She encouraged guests to tell their stories, in whatever way feels comfortable. “You may want to dance it out, you can write it out, you can create journals, you can garden it out,” she says. “I like to say you’re making room for the next chapter to come.”
Feldman’s artwork on display at Main Street, which includes a hand-stitched collage on fabric called “Look for the Lighthouse,” features everything from fiber to sari scraps. Several pieces were created specifically for Main Street’s gallery. “There’s hope all around us,” Feldman says. “We have a community here at Main Street and we can be grateful for the beauty in the little moments…no matter what our challenges and joys are in life, there are pockets of hope everywhere.”