By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Westborough resident Linda Crawford has looked at enough black shoes to last a lifetime.
“I’m so tired of black shoes,” she laughed.
She not only looked at them, she painted them – and shoes of other colors as well – as part of an art project she undertook shortly after she learned she had breast cancer.
Crawford was an art teacher at the Hastings Elementary School in January 2004 when she was diagnosed.
“I was bummed because I couldn’t teach,” Crawford recalled. “My immune system was compromised because of the chemo[therapy] and radiation.”
She was looking for an outlet, and was inspired by an exhibit at the Worcester Art Museum to start an art project of her own.
“I took pictures of the shoes of people who were supporting me,” she said. These included family, friends, coworkers and the nursing staff at Dana Farber Metrowest Cancer Center in Framingham, where she received treatment.
She then turned the photographs into 42 watercolor paintings over the course of six months.
“I couldn’t control how I was feeling,” Crawford said. “I was on a treadmill of hospital visits and treatments. Painting gave me something else to focus on.”
She would work on her paintings during infusions.
“It made the time pass so quickly,” she said.
When Crawford started the project, she said she always intended to create a circle of the individual paintings, representing the support she received from the people around her during her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.
“Each pair of shoes is a metaphor for a person coming along for the ride,” Crawford explained.
The project has been on display throughout October at the Westborough Shopping Center to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The display is part of an effort organized by the Art and Frame Emporium to bring local art to the community by showcasing artists in the empty storefronts at the shopping center. Crawford’s work will be on display through the end of the month.
“[The exhibit space] is giving us avenues to show our work,” Crawford noted.
Crawford has lived in Westborough with her husband, Dana, for 30 years; her son and daughter grew up there. She recently was blessed with a new grandson and looks forward to many years as a proud grandma.
“I am doing well,” she said. “I go for my yearly check-ups.”
The cancer survivor is back teaching art – “the best job in the world” – now at the Mill Pond School.
Crawford has integrated her shoes project into her lessons with fifth-graders at Mill Pond.
“I had them sketch their shoes,” she said. “I told them ‘they represent you at this moment in time.’”
She explained that the children will outgrow their shoes and change styles.
In addition to teaching, Crawford is now working on a collection of children’s portraits, also in watercolor. She is also involved in a Thursday evening group organized through Art and Frame Emporium.
“We meet with other local artists who critique our work and give support,” she said.
She credits her medical crisis with bringing her back to painting.
“It gave me time to focus,” she said. “I remembered how much I enjoyed it.”