Cancer can be the source of both fear and inspiration, depending on how each individual approaches the topic. For local artist Vincent T. Fallis, his wife’s, Mia, battle with cancer is the source of inspiration for his art.
Fallis’ “Angels of Inspirations” is the latest art exhibit being featured in the City Council Chamber Gallery. An encaustic photographer, his 11 original works of art pop to life, visually and emotionally.
Models for each of the photos are cancer survivors. Their stories are included next to their respective portrait, adding more depth and context to the art.
As there is a story accompanying each portrait, there is also a story behind the art itself.
From retail to art
Like so many artists, Fallis’ journey as an artist begins at childhood and takes many detours before landing back on the path leading to a career in art.
As an adolescent, Fallis spent long road trips to California drawing superheroes and snapping photos. His father taught him how to operate a Canon AE-1 and 8mm video cameras, laying down the foundation for his future as an artist.
Typical of the artist life, Fallis’ road trip to becoming a professional was put on pause. However, his trip to becoming a professional artist was only delayed, not canceled.
After spending 30 years of his life in retail management, Fallis decided to finish his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He credits Elijah Gowin, UMKC’s Art Department chair and professor, for changing his perspective on form and narrative in encaustic photography.
“Angels of Inspiration” is Fallis’ Master of Studio Art thesis at UMKC.
Inspiration for “Angels of Inspiration”
Professor Gowin challenged Fallis to create something that has purpose and meaning. He did not have to look far.
Fallis began thinking about his thesis project in 2020. At that time, the early phases of the pandemic were shutting down operations across the nation, including elective surgeries. Fallis said that tests and scans for cancer patients were being delayed, expediting the progression of their cancer and ultimately their death.
Cancer is no stranger to Fallis. His wife, Mia, has stage four carcinoid cancer.
Fallis decided that he needed to do something to bring attention back to cancer. It is a way for him to help his wife, her fellow cancer survivors, and their families.
“I know little of cancer, heart disease is the demon that follows me,” Fallis says in his bio. “Mia has taught me a lot about being resilient against the odds. She is my inspiration for Angels of Inspiration. Those who suffer with cancer have a determination to live, to win the battles, and then ultimately the war.”
Vincent and Mia inspire cancer survivors to open up
Mia was not always open about her cancer. She did not want anyone to know. Her secrecy is not uncommon among those who have cancer.
Fallis said that as he began to explore his thesis project, Mia began to open up. Eventually, she would become the subject of the first portrait in the “Angels of Inspiration” series.
Sometimes it only takes one person to get the ball rolling. Once Mia’s story was being shared through the portrait, other cancer survivors took notice. Ten more people would end up telling their story through art. Fallis notes that people just discovering they have cancer have found comfort in the portraits, knowing that others are going through the same thing.
Some of the models portrayed in the portraits were at the exhibit’s reception at the City Council Chamber Gallery on Feb. 3, including Raymore resident Linda Wisely. In addition to being a part of “Angels of Inspiration,” Wisely has another connection to Fallis: She is also an artist.
Wisely has conquered endometrial, colon and thyroid cancer, all of which were discovered early and removed. She has not had recurring cancer in the last three years. Although she will downplay her cancer (she was quick to mention her cancers were removed and she has never gone through chemotherapy), Wisely’s struggle with cancer is very real and valid.
She first discovered she had cancer when she was a young mother. It was menacing and hard to comprehend then. Finding out about subsequent cancers was not any less frightening.
Wisely has undergone potentially dangerous surgeries. Like many fighting cancer, Wisely was afraid of dying. However, she was not afraid of the cancer taking her life. Rather, Wisely had a fear of dying under anesthesia. That fear would turn into a closer relationship with God, Wisely said. She now finds comfort in knowing that she will wake up, either lying on a hospital bed or in heaven. Wisely is no longer afraid to die.
When it comes to artists, the Wisely family line is a matriarchal one, going back to at least her great grandmother and passing down each generation since. Wisely’s work includes art, writing, costumes, custom sewing and jewelry. Look for her art by searching for “Fineartgarden-Art of Linda Wisely” on Facebook.
Wisely’s advice to anyone recently discovering they have cancer is to not focus on the cancer. Instead, let God and the doctors worry about the cancer. You do you.
Modern photography meets ancient art
In addition to creating something with purpose and meaning, Fallis also wanted to create something that was different.
Fallis draws from his deep interest in the ancient arts when creating “Angels of Inspiration” portraits. He points out that the background and the way the fingers are positioned are some of the aspects inspired by ancient Greek and Roman art.
The complete series of portraits took Fallis about a year and a half to complete. He broke down each portrait intro three phases: photoshoot, photo manipulation and the encaustic process. Each portrait takes about a month or so to complete.
Encaustic art is the process of applying wax over an image. For Fallis, it is the most time-consuming phase of his process.
Essentially, encaustic photography includes transferring the image onto a wax surface. From there, the artist can manipulate the wax to create a three-dimensional look and feel to the portrait. With wax tending to dry quickly, Fallis has a short amount of time to achieve the desired texture.
“Angels of Inspiration” portraits are on display throughout the entire month of February at the City Council Chamber Gallery located at Raymore City Hall, 100 Municipal Circle.
For more information about Vincent and Mia Fallis’ art, visit VincenzosArtGrotto.com.
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