"...be nice. I see hope in people being nice to each other."
We are so much more than a body
We are color and light, elements and energy. When my friend Brenna died of ovarian cancer at just 44 years old, I needed a way to capture her essence, to show the world just how beautiful she truly was. As gorgeous as those bright blue eyes were, as much as I loved the way the bridge of her nose crinkled when she giggled, these physical traits were only a very small part of who Brenna was.
I’ve only painted a few times in the past 20 years. But when Brenna died, for some inexplicable reason, I found myself buying paint, brushes, and canvases. I sat at a child’s folding table in our basement and painted through my pain and grief.
I didn’t even have a plan. I knew it had to be purple, because Brenna loved Prince second only to her husband Wade. I found myself mixing colors like the ones in a quilt made by her great aunt Pauline Henningsen that Brenna kept on her bed. The emotions came out in squiggles, swirling across the canvas in colorful jewel-toned vines.
I’m pretty sure my family thought I’d lost my mind. For weeks, I spent hours downstairs, bent over the canvas, blasting Prince music, sobbing and painting.
Brenna Kay Sundby
When the painting was finished, I leaned the canvas against a wall and walked away. Life resumed. After a few months, my husband gently wondered what I thought we might do with the purple painting in the basement. I thought about it for a long time. Despite my hesitance to share something so vulnerable with the world, I felt oddly compelled to do something with this mess of squiggles.
I asked a few artistic people for their opinion. Was it even good? I had no idea what constituted “art.” Slowly, the idea to share it with the infusion center where Brenna and I had spent so much time together was born. I named the painting after Prince’s most famous song… Purple Rain.
What started out as an outlet for my grief grew into a fundraiser in Brenna’s memory. And in the process, my heart and eyes were opened to a whole other piece of myself.
My hope and my goal
My hope is that my painting will inspire others to give, to create, and to treasure each and every breath. Because life is fleeting, and not everyone has an opportunity to play the long game.
My goal is to raise money in Brenna’s memory that can be used to help others struggling through the fear, pain, and uncertainty of cancer, and ultimately, to extend Brenna’s legacy well beyond her short 44 years of life.
Where will the original painting be displayed?
The original painting will be hung at Billings Clinic in an as-yet undecided location within the Infusion Center or the Cancer Center. We will have a small, covid-friendly unveiling of the painting with Brenna’s immediate family, as well as the dedicated caregivers who couldn’t help but fall in love with Brenna during the long hours she spent under their selfless care. The ceremony will be in late April, in honor of what would have been Brenna’s 45th birthday.
Where will the funds go?For now, all profits from the sale of these products will go to the Billings Clinic Infusion Center and the Billings Clinic Cancer Center, to be used however the Foundation feels there is the most need. Depending on how much money is raised, we may expand our giving to other areas that were important to Brenna, such as education and scholarship.
BRENNA'S LEGACY IS AMAZING!
Total raised for Billings Clinic Foundation:
As of 5/10/21 at 11:00 AM MST
Proceeds go towards housing for out-of-town family of cancer patients admitted to the hospital.
Thank you for your support!
Products are printed on-demand as orders come in. Please allow 6-8 weeks for processing and delivery.
(We are running this operation out of our house, so please bear with us!)
Thank you to Rimrock Art & Frame in Billings, Mont. for your expert reproduction of original artwork, including posters, canvas, and metal.
Special thanks to Yoshie Barnett of Lotus Flower Journeys for help with the tech setup.
We couldn’t have done it without you!