Meet Ms. February.
Alison Akin had her collage, "Healing Spirit Paintress," chosen to enhance the second month of the year in a 2021 calendar created by CURE Media Group, which publishes cancer research updates.
Alison, who lives in Livermore, came head-to-head with the disease when her mother battled colon cancer, which moved into her liver, and died in 2003. Alison, then 43, an only child, took care of mom with her stepdad.
"She was such a trooper," Alison recalled. "All the other patients loved her."
Then, in 2016, her stepdad died of brain cancer.
"It was a 5-1/2-week experience and very intense," Alison said.
During these struggles, Alison discovered CURE magazine, which reaches more than 1 million patients, survivors and caregivers.
Then a couple of years ago Alison retired after 32 years with Apple and decided it was time to get back to her art and painting.
"I did graphic design and illustrating in college but for a pretty long time I was working and raising my kids -- I have two adult children and three grandchildren," she said. "Now my art is all I do."
She especially enjoys collages, and has joined an international mixed media group headquartered in the Netherlands that posts challenges for its members, cluing them what to add to their canvases.
"We've all become great friends," Alison said.
The CURE Calendar Contest, in its second year, draws entries from across the country in a variety of media including painting, photography and sculpture.
Alison's collage uses acrylics, glass beads, embroidery thread for grass, tissue paper, 3D butterflies and Tibetan flags, ink, blue tule and gold leaf. The "Healing Spirit Paintress" girl is filled with love, optimism and the belief that art can help relax and heal those dealing with hardship.
"It was very cleansing to do this. Painting is an incredible way to help you get through things," Alison said, adding with a laugh, "It is also great when you are not trying to get through things."
Alison noted she comes from a long line of artists. Her great-grandfather, who immigrated from Ireland, painted ceilings and did stained glass in San Francisco. Her grandfather did cartooning for fun, and her mother was an oil painter.
"When I was little, my father wound up pretty sick with heart problems and passed away at 35. Then my mother painted up a storm," Alison remembered. "She did a lot of seascapes."
"Looking at this painting I did, it is reflective of what she did when she was trying to process the loss," Alison added. "It is a way to try to get in the moment, to help you get through the hard stuff."
The CURE Calendar Contest attracted 121 entries this year. Staff members did the judging, choosing the art they felt best represented the creativity that can be found in the cancer experience. They viewed each entry not only as a therapeutic outlet for the artists but also something that could inspire those who view it.
The calendar is not available for sale although copies are sent to each artist, but the website (www.curetoday.com) displays all the art submitted.
Alison was touched that her collage was chosen for the calendar.
"I was really ecstatic, especially given what it is about," she said.
Editor's note: Dolores Fox Ciardelli is Tri-Valley Life editor for the Pleasanton Weekly. Her column, "Valley Views," appears in the paper on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.