Beating cancer through art

Locals may recognize long-time islander Terry Ogle through his house painting business. On Sept. 18 Ogle held an art show at Spa d Bune, not only to show off his latest watercolors, acrylics and sculptures but 15 percent was also donated to Fred Hutchinson to assist families with bone marrow transplants. The show is titled “The Art of Healing.” Ogle himself went through cancer treatment and knows the difficulties firsthand.

“We decided to do the show because when I was going through it, there was a benefit held for me on the island that made a tremendous difference,” said Ogle, who did not only mean financially — although that was helpful as well. “That the community cared so much was very humbling to me.”

Ogle was drawn to the arts of carving wood as a child.

“I remember carving an arrowhead as a cub scout project,” he said.

His artistic bent grew into painting. After moving to San Juan in the early 90’s, he and his family would draw on ferry rides, serving as a bonding experience as well as killing time. Islanders would frequently join them.

“I love to create. There is a certain amount of logic to it, thinking about the composition, researching. But it’s the actual creation of the piece when all the distractions melt away when the subconscious takes over that I love,” Ogle said, adding that the process is mentally extremely healthy.

As his painting business began to boom his creative time decreased. That changed again when he was diagnosed with cancer not long before COVID struck. Watercoloring kept him from overthinking his treatment and focusing on anxieties surrounding his health.

“Art tapped into the positive. I would ask the doctors what my ratio of survival was, they hated that, but I would take their answer, say it was 30 to 40 percent I was going to make it, and say, ok, then I still have a chance,” Ogle said.

That hope was channeled into his paintings, many of which were distributed amongst his nurses, doctors and other caregivers, creating a bond.

“The art became bigger than I was aware, and made the [caregivers] feel good. They were able to say ‘this guy, we saved him.’ So having that art is good for them too, in a different way,” Ogle said.

He was also able to process the negative.

“There was a bit of despair, as to what is going to happen to me. Some of those pieces are dark, and not easy to look at. They are not happy landscapes” Those works reflect that other reality, the mortal side of living.

“[Doctors] tried a lot of things on me, not all of it worked, and I don’t know how long remission will last. But, today I’m in a good spot, and that is what this show is about,” Ogle said.

After the diagnosis, Ogle needed to register for a bone marrow transplant. Finding a match is its own lengthy ordeal. A person usually only has around a thousand matches in the world, according to him. How close geographically the donors are, narrows the viability of those matches significantly. There were two perfect matches for Ogle. In a twist of fate, as Ogle was getting the message that a match had been found, the donor had been right near his doorstep. They had been honeymooning in Friday Harbor and stayed right next door to Ogles gallery. The two discovered the connection later, and have grown close since that time. Ogle’s donor has visited several times, and they have sailed on the Spike Africa, did group art projects together. “There have been a lot of twists and turns through the experience like that,” Ogle said.

Like most artists, his creations are based on his experiences. Living on an island, then, it’s not surprising much of his work centers around marine life. Ogle has also been an avid diver, after being inspired by watching National Geographic shows featuring Jacque Cousteau. He was sixteen when he made his first scuba dive. He lived in Texas at the time and the waters there are much different than the Salish Sea.

“They were very different experiences. The water of course is warmer, and there are coral reefs,” Ogle said.

One of his sculptures shown on Sept. 18 featured an orca, while others depicted underwater scenes. Many of the paintings on display are abstract, and several reflect the colors, lighting and emotion of the sea.

Through the experience, he and others have witnessed growth in his work.

“There is more depth, a higher sense of cohesion,” Ogle said.

People who are beginning cancer treatment call him, knowing he understands what they are going through.

“I drop everything and talk to them. I tell them how art helped me by keeping me positive,” Ogle said. He added that it does not have to be art, but anything the person is passionate about that will take their mind off the treatment and axieties.

The show was a success with 60 to 80 people stopping by. As of Sept. 26, he has raised approximately $3,000 for transplants through sales and donations. His work can still be found on display at his studio, and donations from the proceeds will be given to Fred Hutchison through the end of the month.

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