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Cancer Can't Stop Purchase College Art Sensation

HARRISON, N.Y. - To say Michelle MacNaught's recent months have been difficult would be an understatement as the 21-year-old Purchase College student submitted much of her work from her hospital bed. But the Stage IV ovarian cancer patient put it all aside this week when her artwork was celebrated in a New York City gallery.

MacNaught said she used her illness to help fuel her creativity, chronicling her battle with cancer in several woodblock prints, etchings, drawings and in a new book, "Michelle MacNaught Works on Paper," with a foreword written by noted art critic Peter Schjeldahl of The New Yorker.

"I wanted people to know how I felt during my treatments, and that it's okay," MacNaught said. "Those feelings are still normal. They happen every day in everyone's lives, and we tend to overlook that."

Leo Koenig and his wife Maggie Clinton, who represent some of the best-known emerging and mid-career contemporary artists, arranged the showcase of MacNaught's work in a special exhibition on view from Nov. 15 to 17 at the Leo Koenig Gallery. Out of 20 pieces on display, 13 have already been sold.

More than 300 people attended her exhibit opening Tuesday night, including Cassandra Hooper, associate professor at Purchase's School of Art and Design.

"It was amazing because even though it was student work of a young artist, it stood out as truly professional and very expressive," Hooper said. "In every way, this was a successful event."

MacNaught arrived to the opening via helicopter to be a part of the event.

"When she came, it was an emotional time for a lot of people," said Hooper, who hasn't seen MacNaught for months before the exhibit. "It was great to see her, but also sad to see her so sick."

MacNaught persisted in her coursework at Purchase College from her hospital bed, participating in art critique sessions through mobile phone photos, text messages and emails. The faculty of the Purchase College School of Art and Design rallied to support her, keeping in constant communication at every stage of the process.

The college's President Thomas J. Schwarz also attended the exhibit and purchased one of her works to be displayed at the school.

MacNaught said she was donating all of the proceeds from sales of her book and half of the proceeds from exhibition sales of her work to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for ovarian cancer research.

"Ultimately, I hope people will think about their own selves, and ask themselves who they are," MacNaught said.

For more information, the gallery may be reached at (212) 334-9255.

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