As a clinical oncologist working in Brazil, Gray Portela must fight not only against the epidemic of cancer, but against the myriad of social and economic problems of a population in which the majority are denied access to basic rights. In any family, a cancer diagnoses is devastating. Serving as the Medical Director of the Petrolina Institute of Oncology and Dom Tomás Cancer Hospital, Gray finds himself searching for better treatment within a limited public health system, and helps patients through the entire process of curing and controlling the disease.
Born in Serra Branca, Brazil, he was always drawn to painting. Self-taught, he turned to it as a way to treat himself from burnout syndrome as a doctor. It’s on canvas that Gray works out the feelings that emerge over the working day. “My art is about cancer, pain, life and death, faith and hope, victory and defeat, medicine and religion,” said the artist. Each piece has a personal story to tell. The bold personifications of life and death depicted in his oil-on-canvas works, often colored blue, are both abstract and simplistic, highlighting a moment on the subject’s journey.