Arts & Humanities

Caine College Student Amanda Joy-Petersen: A Story of Resilience, Creativity

By Emma Lee |

Amanda Joy-Petersen, graduating master’s student in the Department of Art + Design at Utah State University, is preparing to showcase her journey battling breast cancer throughout her academic career in her upcoming thesis exhibition, which will be on display in the Tippets & Eccles Galleries April 15-19.

Despite facing unexpected challenges, Amanda has demonstrated unwavering resilience and determination, which shines through in her artwork.

Amanda was initially introduced to the printmaking world by her father, who worked for a global distribution and printing company and has been working in that space ever since.

“My ninth-grade job shadow was spent doing things revolved around the distribution side of printing,” Amanda said. “All of my adult jobs have revolved either around art, fine art framing or some form of printing.”

Amanda received her bachelor’s in art education with honors from Weber State University. Her passion and love for learning guided her decision to go back to school, in addition to her desire to be able to financially support her family.

After graduating from Weber, she came to Utah State University to pursue a master’s in printmaking. Her journey began during the pandemic, which came along with a new set of challenges.

“Printmaking in a restricted way is challenging if you don’t have a printing press,” she said. “You have to find a way to work around the challenges.”

Then, in April 2022, during the end of the second year of her master’s, Amanda was diagnosed with Stage 2 triple negative breast cancer.

“The diagnosis came at the tail end of my busiest semester. I was teaching and taking five classes at a grad level, so that was a lot,” Amanda said. “But my family is my priority, so it was acting as the glue for them even though the trauma was happening to me.”

Despite receiving a diagnosis of the most invasive breast cancer, Amanda continued with her master’s. While in school, she completed two rounds of chemotherapy, nine rounds of immunotherapy, and underwent five surgeries before going into remission.

“It was a dance to balance all of it,” she said. “It was finding ways to manage teaching and curriculum, and doing art.”

Amanda specifically noted the support she got from the school and Department of Art + Design Head Kathy Puzey.

“Kathy has always been so supportive, even pre-diagnosis,” Amanda said. “Post-diagnosis, she has done everything she can to get more funding for our stipend and find scholarships and work for me so that my family could stay in on-campus housing.”

Her thesis incorporates parts of all challenges she has faced, specifically breast cancer in the last few years. Amanda’s exhibition, “Extant,” showcases her vulnerability through print and mixed media work. Her “Body Series” layers self-portraits of her chest with symbols of her life and poetry she wrote while undergoing chemo.

“On the outward, I haven’t expressed a lot of those things. There are things I haven’t told my kids, my spouse, my mom, or anyone,” Amanda said. “But I am able to articulate it visually, through the art.”

A growth mindset has helped Amanda stay positive and motivated despite everything going on in her life.

“There's no space in life for toxic positivity. But there's also no space for consistent negativity. So it's finding that happy medium of finding things that I can incrementally do for myself each day to get myself toward the goals that I have,” Amanda said. “It’s finding my core values of what I want to accomplish, in spite of this medical condition, that allows me to thrive.”

After graduation in May, Amanda hopes to teach and eventually have her own studio to provide people with opportunities to engage with art.

Through her candid reflections and powerful artwork, Amanda's story offers a beacon of hope and strength to all who face unexpected challenges. Visit Amanda’s exhibition show or her online art portfolio.


Emma Lee
Communications Specialist
Caine College of the Arts
(909) 670-3273


Kathy Puzey
Associate Professor of Printmaking, Department Head
Department of Art + Design


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