Skip to main content

Courageous cancer fighters immortalized as superheroes by MN artist

  • Author:
  • Updated:

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

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 5.46.37 PM

Video shows officers ended pursuit before fatal crash in Anoka

The crash occurred when the driver fled police during an attempted traffic stop in Coon Rapids.

Eli Hart

6-year-old Eli Hart identified as boy found dead in car trunk

The kindergartner's father was trying to get full custody of his son.


Boy found dead in trunk of car in Mound was kindergartner

"It is horrifying and difficult to process a tragedy of this magnitude, especially in our close-knit community," the superintendent wrote.

Minneapolis police

Man found yelling for help after being shot in Minneapolis

The shooting occurred on the 800 block of Elwood Avenue North at around 9:15 p.m.

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 9.56.21 AM

Minneapolis North principal says she was fired, district says otherwise

“MPS requires schools to follow protocols in times like that and I did not,” Friestleben said.

Kris Richard Severin

Inmate who escaped Minnesota prison is captured

The inmate escaped Wednesday morning.

Brave New Comedy Workshop in downtown Minneapolis.

Brave New Workshop cancels shows due to COVID-19 cases

The shows were scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre.

Austin Retterath

Body of missing U of M student found in Mississippi River

Austin Retterath was last seen alive in the morning hours of May 8.

"Love" mural seen in St. Paul.

Summer mural events to bring together community, shine light on MN artists

The 2022 Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival will take place this weekend in St. Paul's Creative Enterprise Zone, with ensuing events happening this summer.


Gallery: Remodeled lakeside home in Prior Lake on market for $2.8M

It offers privacy at the end of a dead-end road fronting onto Lower Prior Lake.

golden valley police department

Carjacking outside ice arena in Golden Valley under investigation

Golden Valley PD confirmed it received a report of a carjacking Monday evening.