High school student uses art to heal from mother's death

Published: Jan. 4, 2018 at 2:38 PM EST
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During fourth period, every day at Bearden High School, Justin Edaugal takes his seat.

He doesn't sit at a desk. He sits at an easel.

He sits, staring down a canvas ready to reveal the painful story he has carried with him his whole life.

"When I was nine years old, my mom passed away from stomach cancer," he said. "Recently I really wanted to put the emotional burden that I've experienced and my family has experienced onto a piece of paper and share those stories with other people."

So, he paints.

"I want to make my art so I can remember her. She always taught me to persevere in anything I do and so all the artwork I do has meaning. I don't want to throw anything away. I try to pay attention to every detail so I can help someone understand," he explained.

"I think he really already knew he wanted to make work about this long before the project came into existence," said his art teacher, Anna Halliwell Boyd.

In his art, he brings to life the details that stole his mother's life.

"I looked up the microscopic pictures of the cells and I wanted to make it my own and layer pictures and colors to show the burden it takes on people, I used a lot of reds purples and pinks that are usually common in the cancer that my mom had," he said.

Her battle lives on in his work, painting pictures of her cancer cells, and layering his mother's medical records, even her death certificate, into it.

"Looking back at how much pain my mom went though, I try to put myself in her shoes, what she went through what other families go through during cancer treatment, I try to put that on a canvas on a piece of paper so people can understand," he explained.

Channeling his pain through paint, putting his hurt on paper.

"This painting is called 'Blinded,' and I did this at governor's school. I wanted to incorporate these abstractions, to represent the cancer cells, and so having it layered on top of the figure I wanted to show how it can overwhelm people physically and emotionally because it's an emotional burden on families," he said.

As he works, staining paper with sickness, there is healing.

"When I paint these colors, the blues and reds and pinks, I imagine a lot of depression and anxiety of the disease and turn it into something that is both beautiful and scary at the same time, so I really wanted to have that feeling ring with people when they see my art in person, to make them reflect like, 'Oh, that could be me or my friend or my family member,'" he said.

Every day in fourth period art class, Edaugal spills his pain onto canvas, creating a portrait of love, loss and hope.

"A lot of times I feel really vulnerable having people know my experiences, but knowing that it can help people for awareness and connect with the people, I think that's what makes it worth it for me, and it's a sacrifice that i'm willing to take."

Edaugal has won several awards and scholarships for this work.