Artists flip can­cer the bird

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Michael Gross never planned on join­ing the front lines of the fight against can­cer.

The guy who once put a ter­ri­fied-look­ing dog on the cover of Na­tional Lam­poon mag­a­zine with a gun to its head and the words, “If you don’t buy this mag­a­zine, we’ll kill this dog,” was only think­ing he’d have a lit­tle fun with his art stu­dents when he told them to draw a hand with a raised mid­dle fin­ger.

“Makes a dra­matic state­ment and teaches a lit­tle about anatomy,” the gruff, grav­elly voiced artist told the As­so­ci­ated Press.

It was only after he re­viewed the draw­ings that Gross, who is dy­ing of kid­ney can­cer, had one of those white­light bursts of in­spi­ra­tion: “I said to my­self, ‘This is re­ally funny.’ And I said this also makes a nice state­ment about how I feel about can­cer.”

So the artist who spent a ca­reer cor­ralling oth­ers to work with him on mag­a­zine cov­ers and films be­gan call­ing in fa­vors from mu­ral­ists, ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ists, il­lus­tra­tors and oth­ers for the Flip Can­cer project. What­ever their medium, they would all do the same thing: Cre­ate a draw­ing of a hand with a raised mid­dle fin­ger.

Hav­ing gath­ered more than 30 pieces, he plans to or­ga­nize them into a tour­ing gallery show, even­tu­ally sell them and also screen some onto T-shirts and limitededition prints for sale. He plans to do­nate what­ever money is raised to Scripps Health’s can­cer-treat­ment pro­grams.

The works run the gamut from Gross’ own pop-art draw­ing of a green hand with a raised mid­dle fin­ger to graphic de­signer Tracy Belcher’s nude woman in pro­file flip­ping somebody off.

Gross is a leg­endary fig­ure in art cir­cles, not only for his quirky, over­sized per­son­al­ity but for his im­pact on popular cul­ture. When New York’s pres­ti­gious Pratt In­sti­tute held a 125th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion two years ago, it sur­veyed peo­ple for their thoughts on the 125 most ad­mired icons cre­ated by alumni. Gross’ “Ghost­busters” logo, cre­ated for the films of the same name, came in first, beat­ing out the Chrysler Build­ing.

Gross, shown in his stu­dio, wants to mount a tour­ing show of the Flip Can­cer works.

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