The Art of Affirmation
Published in Inside - Volume XVII, No. 5
By Sarah Stern
In both her art and philanthropic work, Pamela Ader focuses on the power of nature – including the human will
Pam Aders’s multimedia art has often evoked the serenity of nature. A recent exhibit at the Phoenix Gallery in New York City, for example, was collectively titled “Celestial,” and titles of the individual pieces included “Daybreak,” “Cloud Cover,” and “Milky Way.”
For followers of Ader (M.A. ’65), that made her 2007 show “Containment” all the more startling. Reflecting Ader’s bout with breast cancer, the work in that show was an affirmation of the individual’s ability to surmount past difficulties.
“In this series of collages, I have tried to create moments of chaos, and disorder and then find various ways to contain them. In some instances they are covered, secured, and/or packaged,” Ader wrote in a statement accompanying that exhibit, which was also displayed at the Phoenix, where Ader has shown her work for more than 20 years. “When we go through the trials of human existence, it is important to remember that we have the power to overcome obstacles. We can isolate and circumvent that which blocks our path. Never deny the ability of human nature to select survival.”
It was with that last observation in mind that Ader founded, in 2005, Pam’s Pals, which seeks to raise awareness of the risk for breast and ovarian cancer in people who carry the BRACA1 and BRACA2 genetic mutations. The organization also provides assistance to cancer patients as they go through treatment and healing and financially supports programs that raise awareness of early detection.
“When I was going through my treatment, my husband and sister were always there for me, giving me the support I needed,” Ader says. “I realized that not all patients are as fortunate to have this kind of support and I wanted to do something about it.”
Pam’s Pals has also created CDs in both English and Spanish that provide information to patients about the treatment they will undergo. “It was overwhelming how much information there was to take in,” Ader says of her own experience, “and knowing the steps was very helpful and grounding.”
Pam’s Pals partners with New York-Presbyterian Medical Center, the University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation, and Long Island Jewish Hospital.
Ader, who works in a variety of media – painting, sculpture, collage, and photography – has exhibited her work in both solo and group shows across the United States, as well as in some European collections. She admits that her creative life has brought her, at times, some anxiety, especially the angst that comes right before a show opens, but she says she wouldn’t have it any other way. “You know what my friends say when I’m complaining, ‘Well just stop doing it.’ And my response without even thinking is,‘That’s never an option—not doing it. That’s part, no, that is who I am. I’ll always be creating art.’”