Canvassing Life: Susan J. York’s mosaic in Kingston

Artist and cancer survivor Susan J. York (center) with her father, Brannigan Leishman (left), and her partner Simon Strauss (right) in front of York’s 108-painting mosaic in Kingston. (photo by Bill Topazio)

The Gathering Goodness mosaic currently hangs in the HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston. It’s a “painted meditation of peace, love and joy” done by artist Susan J. York to celebrate being alive. “Four years ago, I was diagnosed with stage IIIC ovarian cancer. When people asked what they could do for me, the only thing I could think of was to ask them to imagine me whole and healthy, and if they pray, to pray. After I had surgery to remove the tumor, I physically felt all that energy come my way, as if I was being hugged and helped. It was a transformative experience.”

Anyone who has endured a bout of cancer knows of the challenges to recovery. The disease and its treatments disrupt and can forever alter one’s life. A part of York’s healing process came as a suggestion from a friend, who challenged her to find a creative way to express what she’d been through. She decided to paint something.


“I invited people to send me what inspired peace, love and joy in them. Those were the strongest feelings I’d felt. I received over 600 photographic submissions, over 450 pages of text and 80 songs; so then I sat with all of that and distilled it down. I decided to do 108 pieces in 108 days: the number of beads in a mala. I wanted to make this a meditation on peace, love and joy.”

The first images that came to her were of hands: those of a brother with a sister in a hospital bed. “When I saw those clasped hands – just that simple touch, how important that is, how it symbolized love – I thought, ‘What would say joy? Perhaps hands uplifted. What would say peace? Hands in prayer.’ The mosaic itself weaves these themes together across 108 paintings. The paintings are not just representational of me and my life, but of Life: what brings us joy and peace, what shows we love one another.”

York received a BFA honors degree from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, and has exhibited in galleries throughout New England and Tennessee. Her works are also included in private collections in the US, Canada, Ireland and Great Britain. For more information, see

The Gathering Goodness mosaic will be on exhibit through March 15 at HealthAlliance’s Mary’s Avenue Campus. An Open House will take place on Saturday, February 4 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. (enter under the blue awning next to the Thomas Dee Cancer Center). York will talk about the stories behind the paintings that are documented in a 78-page book detailing the random, instinctual way that she went about producing the work. Refreshments will be served, and part of the proceeds from book sales will go to HealthAlliance’s Oncology Support Program.

Gathering Goodness Mosaic Open House, Saturday, February 4, 2:30-4:30 p.m., HealthAlliance Hospital, 105 Mary’s Avenue, Kingston.