Local artist loses battle with breast cancer

Posted on October 31, 2016 by Mat Pellegrino

For the few that knew Alicia Hansen, art had always been second nature to her.
It was never something she studied or worked at perfecting her whole life. For her, it was more therapeutic—especially painting.
Hansen picked up painting as a form of therapy last year while she battled Stage 4 breast cancer, which she was diagnosed with 6 years ago. She was often spotted inside of her home painting leisurely to pass the time.
So when she was approached by a local artist to paint a 4-foot tall fiber glass masterpiece earlier this year, many were surprised that she gave a nod to such an undertaking.
The fiberglass figure was a sea turtle named Myrtle the Turtle, which has since been erected in the Florida Welcome Center in Escambia County.
Hansen spent several months under a hard deadline at the beginning of the year tweaking the masterpiece, which showcased several attractions the county had to offer visitors and residents.
Hansen tragically lost her battle against breast cancer on Sunday, Oct. 23 when she passed away peacefully surrounded by family inside of her Holley-be-the-Sea home.
But her memory lives on through what she told South Santa Rosa News was her first major art project, which will sit at the Florida Welcome Center over the next several months. Granted how serious the undertaking was, Hansen took it with stride, painting the masterpiece for hours on in inside of her garage at her Navarre home.
“It’s therapeutic. It’s just a way for me to relax,” Hansen told South Santa Rosa News back in March when she was wrapping up the project.
Originally, the Tourist Development Council project was awarded to Bill Adair, a Gulf Breeze artist, but other endeavors threatened his deadline. That’s when Adair approached 47-year-old Hansen about finishing the masterpiece.
Hansen’s daughter, Amber Kang, lived with her mother for two months this year and remembered getting a call from Hansen when she was approached about the project by the Gulf Breeze artist.
“Adair told her it just needed a touch up,” Kang said. “But when she showed up to look at it, she realized it didn’t need a touch up.”
That’s because the turtle hadn’t even been touched by a brush at all.
A complete blank canvas.
“I remember her calling and telling me ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’” Kang said.
But despite her skepticism, slowly, but surely, animals, artifacts and splashes of blue and green were stenciled onto the shell, head and underbelly of the turtle.
An octopus for the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station, a painting of giraffes on one of the turtle’s flippers to represent the Gulf Breeze Zoo and a ziplining mural to showcase what the north end of the county had to offer was just a tip of the iceberg as to what the mural showcased.
But for Hansen, the mural was more than just a project. For her, it was a way to help her cope with the pain she was going through as she battled cancer. Kang said although her mother always had a smile on her face, she was battling extreme pain from the cancer while she was tackling the massive project.
“Last year she had cancer on the outside of her bladder. This year, it came back in her spinal fluid, which caused her to get blood clots and she suffered from strokes,” Kang said.
And when she had deadlines looming over the art project, her daughter said she took the stress with stride.
“She had so much going on with doctor’s appointments, which kept her busy…but she had a love for art,” Kang said. “When she got the turtle, she worked on that thing day and night. All day. Trying to get ideas of what to do. She worked on it really hard.”
Kang said her mother had always been into art, but painting was her latest and most daunting endeavor. Kang said her mother painted a coy pond mural on the floor of her home, which will always be there as a reminder of how much she loved picking up a paint brush, and how hard she worked on Myrtle the Turtle.
“I enjoyed doing it,” she said back in April as she glanced over her nearly complete masterpiece. “It was a lot of fun and I’m glad I was given the opportunity to work on it.”