Courageous cancer fighters immortalized as superheroes by MN artist


They're courageous, strong, and graceful fighters, and a Minnesota artist thinks they're the closest thing we've got to superheroes.

For the past few years, Barbara Porwit has been inspired by friends of hers who have been battling breast cancer, and has immortalized their bravery on canvas as superheroes.

Porwit's creations have included portraits of breast cancer survivors in the guise of Wonder Woman, as well as superheroes named "The Ruby Runner," "The Alchemist," and "Radiation Diva."

"We select up to four subjects per year to go through a very personalized process of imagining themselves as their superhero of choice and then seeing that image created, bigger than life, in an original oil painting of them in their glory," she says on her website.

Porwit is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees in fine arts. She has also studied at the University of Essex in England.

National exposure

She first debuted her Breast Cancer Superhero Portrait Project at Minneapolis' Fox Egg Gallery in 2013, the Pioneer Press reports. But her work is now attracting a much larger audience, which peaked Wednesday on World Cancer Day.

As well as being featured in this month's edition of Minnesota Woman's Press, Porwit's work has been noticed by the Women You Should Know website and Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, an online community championing young women, created by the Parks and Recreation star.

Porwit first got the idea when she painted her son, who has special needs, as Spider-man, and said the portrait revealed "his qualities of courage and strength."

"I kept hearing about women I knew being diagnosed with breast cancer. It was in the midst of their treatments that I saw these same women turning their health challenges into personal power," she told Women You Should Know. "I wanted to capture that and to inspire these women to see the superhero inside themselves."

Porwit's latest work is currently on display at the Katherine Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota as part of its WonderWomen exhibition, which runs until Saturday, Feb. 14.

Next Up

Car crash

'Grim' milestone: Minnesota's traffic deaths reach 364, tying 2019 total

“With fewer vehicles on the road during the 2020 pandemic, the loss of life on Minnesota roads is beyond disappointing."

Devin Weiland

Charges: Albert Lea man, 21, fired around 90 shots at police, residents

Weiland was arrested after a standoff that lasted more than eight hours.

Body storage warehouse

Body storage warehouse 'ready if needed for COVID-19 fatality management'

The warehouse is currently storing PPE and testing supplies.


Signs come down at Giordano's restaurant in Uptown

It appears the restaurant has closed for good.

State Capitol.

Walz eyes COVID-19 relief package totaling $300-$600 million amid budget surplus

The state forecasted a budget surplus for the remainder of the biennium.

Bar beer

Walz non-committal on extension of restaurant, gym closures

He has suggested that the ban on mixing with people outside your household could continue over Christmas.

scratch lottery ticket

State lottery: Don't give scratch-offs as gifts to minors

The Minnesota Lottery participates in an annual responsible gambling campaign focusing on underage lottery play during the holidays.

Marijuana, cannabis

Minnesota adds 2 more qualifying conditions for medical marijuana

There will be 17 conditions that qualify people to obtain medical marijuana in Minnesota.

Matt Birk

Ex-Viking Matt Birk confirms interest in future run for governor

The next gubernatorial election in Minnesota is Nov. 8, 2022.

Screen Shot 2020-12-01 at 10.59.59 AM

Handsome Hog in St. Paul to close temporarily

Executive chef Justin Sutherland cited inaction by state and federal leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic.


MN radio host resigns after repeatedly body shaming Iowa female host

Aaron Imholte is now broadcasting the show from an online platform.