The Story

The Story

For over twenty-five years, Joyce Mallonee lived with breast cancer. At first, her goal was just survival. But after years of living with disease, she decided to channel her experience and unique perspective into an art project - a deconstruction of her body. Working closely with her son Alex, the pair conceptualized and collaborated with seven contributing artists to create eight pieces of art. Each piece tells a part of Joyce’s personal journey and explores themes of denial, vanity, humor, and creativity as essential mechanisms for coping with cancer. But Joyce also believed her art could empower other cancer survivors to tell their own stories, break down barriers, and prompt difficult but crucial conversations with loved ones. On October 4th, 2020 Joyce Mallonee passed away. But as they say, the show must go on... The Deconstruction Art Show took place at the Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery in Lafayette, California from January 20th-24th, 2021, closing on what would have been Joyce’s 70th birthday. Currently, Alex is working on the virtual version of the exhibit to be released later in 2021 and followed by a feature length documentary companion piece, also entitled Deconstruction.


“Originally the idea for Deconstruction was just a creative outlet to show what I’d been through - the journey. That you, as a human being, can literally be deconstructed. They can take stuff away from your physical form but they can’t deconstruct your spirit.


In our conversations developing this idea, my mother continually brought up what we refer to as “the Problem” with cancer that also applies to grief and depression: most people do not want to confront it. Cancer is scary. It forces people to face mortality, and people don’t want to discuss or even think about it. I have been guilty of this myself. For years, thinking about my mother’s death terrified me and I repressed it. There was a building sense of dread as I found myself bracing for bad news. Then she told me about the idea for the art show and something clicked. We started talking more openly about the cancer - not in a scary way, but in a matter-of-fact way. I found that I was able to speak about it freely without being overcome by emotion. We both agreed that this was a much more positive way to engage with the illness, and I felt more involved in her treatment. Instead of worrying about the time we had remaining, we were working together to create something special. I’ve learned so much about my mother - like how the concept for “Deconstruction” evolved from a mental exercise my mom used to perform where she imagined all the parts of her body doctors have removed, replaced, and modified but marveled at how her sense of self remained unaffected. When I asked why I hadn’t heard of this mental exercise before, she responded, “Because you didn’t ask the right question.” Apparently, almost no one does. No one was asking her, “What is it like to go through this?” But she wanted them to. She wanted to tell them that for all the struggles, there has been so much joy too. Because people aren’t asking the right questions, Joyce felt the deep need not just to make the artwork but to share it in the hopes of affecting change.