Living Proof exhibit highlights courage against cancer

By on July 8, 2024

Left to right: Linda Lauby, Kathy Cawthon, and Cyndi Goetcheus Sarfan. (Photo by Mary Ellen Riddle)

By Mary Ellen Riddle  | Outer Banks Voice

Art heals. That is the message that three Dare County women want to share with the community.

Kathy Cawthon, Linda Lauby and Cyndi Goetcheus Sarfan, friends whose lives have been affected by cancer, formed the Visionary Artists Group whose goal is to give all those whose lives have been impacted by cancer an opportunity to share their experiences through creative expression.

The group began to brainstorm ways they could bring their message of healing to the public. The result of their efforts is the creation of the Living Proof Art exhibit that opened at Dare Arts in Manteo on July’s First Friday.  Fifty-two works of art created by cancer survivors, and their care givers, family and friends, are currently on display through July 27.

“When the Visionary Artists Group approached us about hosting this special exhibition, we were immediately on board,” says Tiffany Lindsey, Dare Arts Gallery Manager. “Giving creative opportunities to those who have been impacted so strongly from something out of their control is essential within the arts.”

Sponsors include Art’s Place, SeaDragon & Yellowhouse Gallery, Outer Barks, and Albemarle Orthotics and Prosthetics. All sponsorship money goes to the Outer Banks Relief Foundation for the support of local families currently dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

The wide variety of art, accompanied by personal statements and spoken word performances given at the reception, express a wide range of experiences.

“Their work is raw, yet sweetly tender, graphic yet exquisitely beautiful,” said Cawthorn at the show’s opening. She posted inspiring signs around the exhibit area taken from the book, Your Brain on Art, explaining how the arts aid in reducing stress and help healing.

“My oncologist actually told me that when you lose yourself in that creative place where you lose track of time and what day it is and that sort of thing. that your blood pressure, your heart rate, all your systems kind of get in sync with each other,” said Cawthon. As a result, your chemotherapy and healing from surgery will work better, she says.

Surrounded by expressive paintings, photographs, mixed media art, sculpture, stained glass and graphic art, the three women teared up during a recent interview as they shared their personal stories and connection with cancer and the role art has played in their healing.

Goetcheus Sarfan, a wildlife photographer, lost her brother JR to a rare form of cancer of the blood cells. “It’s been very therapeutic doing the pieces that I did for the show, but also, you know, really difficult because of, you know, going back to the period when he was in hospice, mostly, and he only lived six months after his diagnosis,” she says.

She submitted two works including a digital graphic piece showing questions she never got answers to from her brother and a photograph of a thistle plant. When the plant is in a certain phase, seed pods blow off into the wind, she explained. “It always makes me think of a family trying to stay together and bits of it are flying off and so that made me think of the day we lost JR, and we opened a window to let [out] his soul.”

Lauby, who nearly died from breast cancer, was buoyed by sunrises and the sea. Everything was overwhelming for Lauby, except getting out of bed and going to the beach with two of her four English setters. She had to send the other two dogs to family because she did not have the strength to take care of all of them.

Lauby would walk to the beach first thing in the morning with her dogs. and took videos of the sunrise. “And that started my Vitamin Sea videos because…I didn’t have the energy to return phone calls and emails and texts,” she says. “And I would post these videos just to say, ‘Hey, I’m still on the right side of the ground.’”

The exhibit includes a photo of her dog Kit watching the sunrise as well as a self-portrait that includes lush eyelashes, eyebrows and flowing blonde hair that, for a time, were taken away by chemotherapy.

Cawthon has been cancer free from breast cancer for 28 years. While she had not done any art since childhood, once diagnosed, she started drawing again and taking online art classes. She also got a lot out of a drumming class hosted by the hospital.

“It was amazing,” says Cawthon. “And I would come home at night, and I would realize I was breathing better,” she says. “My breaths were deep and powerful, and I felt powerful. And when you feel powerful and you head into chemo the next morning, or whatever, you’re going to go in there and kick ass, you know, and you’re going to have that attitude and that’s going to play into your recovery.”


Cassiopeia by Kathy Cawthon. (Photo by Mary Ellen Riddle)


Cawthon submitted several pieces to the exhibit including the upper torso of a female mannequin on which she painted the constellation Cassiopeia. When undergoing treatment, Cawthon’s chest was torn up with scars and radiation tattoos. She cried. Her husband said the marring looked like the constellation Cassiopeia, and it was beautiful. “Yeah, he was telling me, ‘You are still beautiful to me,”’ says Cawthon.

The exhibit’s art expresses many emotions, said Cawthon at the opening, including terror, pain, anger, sadness, and grief. “You will also see profound acceptance and surrender, deep compassion, overwhelming joy, and the purest kind of love. You will see humor, yes humor in the face of cancer. Above all, in every piece you see here, and in every spoken word you hear, you will find courage going forward.”

Instead of the Big C standing for cancer, Cawthon continued, “Let’s let the big C stand for courage.”

(Living Proof, on display through July 27, Tuesday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Dare Arts, 300 Queen Elizabeth Ave., Manteo. 252-473-5558,



Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


See what people are saying:

  • charlie

    truly amazing artist, truly amazing stories, a truly amazing display..

    Tuesday, Jul 9 @ 7:02 pm
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