Superheroes possess extraordinary powers, display courage and are fierce opponents of evil; you can actually say the same thing about those fighting against breast cancer.

Inspired by a portrait that she painted of her young son dressed as Spider-man, Minnesota based artist Barbara Porwit created The Breast Cancer Superhero Portrait Project, where she paints breast cancer warriors as superheroes, celebrating and inspiring the heroic nature of women affected by the disease.

Barbara explained her inspiration for the project to WYSK. “When I painted my son, who has special needs, as Spider-man, his qualities of courage and strength were revealed. At that same time, 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. I wanted to capture that and to inspire these women to see the superhero inside themselves. ”

Each year Barbara selects up to four subjects to go through the personalized process of imagining themselves as their superhero of choice. She works closely with each of them to create a visual image that is reflective of their spirit, courage and resilience.

If you were to be immortalized as your superhero of choice, who would you be and why?

Once the painting is completed, the finished work is shared with family, friends, caregivers and community members at an unveiling ceremony. The project also gives back to the cause. Barbara offers partner organizations (local hospitals, clinics, etc.) prints of the original paintings as vehicles to enhance regional patient support programs and fundraising.

“I have my own row to hoe in many ways, but it feels good to do something that is celebrating and encouraging others. What those women are going through hit me like a ton of bricks and I had to do something. Now I have,” said Barbara.

Yes she has, and it’s spectacular!

Barbara was recently selected as Minnesota Women’s Press Changemaker of 2015 in recognition of the project’s healing impact. She has also launched a crowdfunding campaign in order to continue her important and inspiring work.

For more information about upcoming exhibitions, how to nominate or sponsor a woman you know for a portrait, or to inquire about volunteer opportunities, visit the The Breast Cancer Superhero Portrait Project.

Wonder Woman Katy ? Katy Tessman
“Katy decided she wanted her cape red on the outside, pink on the inside. She was never a pink person, didn’t like the color pink – ‘…now I wear pink with pride.'”

The Honorable and Joyful Lady Justice - Suzi Kasal Forst

The Honorable and Joyful Lady Justice – Suzi Kasal Forst
“With Suzi, Joy and Justice rose to the top. She chose a pose that says ‘joy’ – flying at the viewer with her justice-and-joke-wielding gavel/bottle opener (humor is one of her superpowers) and her evil-fighting goose alongside.”

Lisa Phoenix Rising – Lisa Dahlseid
“What lies within – strength, valor, victory. All of us heroic, super, survivors. We are strong. We are invincible. We are women!! Superheroes – one and all,” said Lisa

Jei Olson The Alchemist
“Most of the time Cancer didn’t make me feel all that sexy or heroic (though, sometimes, it did, and in surprising ways).” more from Jei

Ruby Runner – Anne Drow
“Anne is a wife, sister, mother of soldiers, grandmother, early bird baker, Packers fan, daughter of a breast cancer survivor. Diagnosed at 40 in 2009.”

**Lead image: Radiation Diva – Jill Stanton: “Jill wanted her hospital bracelets transformed into ‘Wonder Woman’ style bracelets, and now she’s deflecting those darn cancer bullets – big time.” 

All photos by Doug Webb