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The Color of Life

My artist's book Khroma is a true account of my battle with a life threatening disease.  These words are from my diary and art journal.  

We all handle our mortality differently.  This is how I handled mine.  During my cancer treatment I created over 2,000 hand printed color and black & white photos in the darkroom.  I would spend all of my waking moments there, trying to leave evidence that I was on this planet.

Khroma by Suzanne Coley

Khroma has 10 movements.  The following is an excerpt from movement 3.  At some point I will post the actual artist's books.  (Each movement has its own livre d'artiste.)  Characters are Black, Magenta, Yellow, Cyan.  

MOVEMENT: TANGENT SPACES AND DERIVATIVES

BLACK
Black is the key, all others follow.
My breasts are so sore.

The biopsy seemed more 
medieval than modern.  
Did you see that metal table with the 
holes in the middle just for the breasts?  
Didn’t see any of those
 things on the Discovery Channel.

After the biopsy, my gown was covered 
with blood.  The nurse said they
had to change it, give me a crisp new one.  
I said I didn’t mind going back to the waiting 
area with my bloody one.  She said, “We 
don’t want to scare the other patients.”
A bomb is being set off inside of me.  
I am imploding. 
My emotions are scattering all over this
beautiful,
pink,
finely decorated
waiting area.

MAGENTA
I had dreams, you know?
I could have been a mathematician.
Hey, I know a little sumin’, sumin’,
about tangent vectors as directional
derivatives.
Math isn’t always about numbers.
That’s what trips people up.
It’s about the patterns.  
The maps.  
The thoughts.  
Working alone at 3 
in the morning,
figuring it all out.

YELLOW
2:30 pm  
Youngest one in waiting area.  
All the faces around have seen
many winters and summers. 
I wonder how many summers
I’ll have.  Will they be hot or mild?  
Will I sweat or enjoy the sun’s rays?  
I loved the chemistry of photography.

Is this a dream or a nightmare?  
My hopes.  I was going to be the
lead photographer on that Vogue shoot.  
Just got hired.  
Milan here I come.

CYAN
You are dreaming.
Concentrating on numbers?

YELLOW
3 pm.   Cancer.  Cancer.  
Cancer.  Omigod!  
If I had waited five years, 
I’d be dead.  
I wonder where I’ll be in five years.

CYAN
No wonder you understand him.

YELLOW
If I would have become a nun 
like I had planned, then 
maybe I wouldn’t have this.

CYAN
It was physical?

MAGENTA
Intellectual. 

CYAN
Intellectual intercourse, 
that really jolts the mind.

YELLOW
We are genetically programmed to die,
my science teacher once said.  
But somehow we program ourselves
to believe we will live forever.

CYAN
You and he have a special chemistry.

MAGENTA
It wasn’t about the numbers. 

CYAN
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers. . . 
What is the message I must get from it?

BLACK
We must face it.

MAGENTA
Some problems take years to figure out.

YELLOW
We don’t have years.

CYAN
I can’t run from this.  
It’s part of me.  I must 
embrace all of it, like a 
dream deferred – the good 
and the bad.  
The pain and the joy. 

MAGENTA
I thought if I painted 
the patterns he would see them.

YELLOW
The contradictions of life.  
Accept them.

CYAN
He saw them.  
He was figuring them out.

YELLOW
Record them.  
Remember them.

MAGENTA
I put them with the faces, 
so he would know.  
Only one person 
would understand them 
– him.

CYAN
Maybe they will help others.

sc

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