The Artful Breast

Today’s post was prompted by a confluence of several related items, the following item providing the spur that finally brought me to my keyboard:

Unfortunately, I am unable to find the name of the artist who painted this portrait, so that I may attribute this beautiful work properly. It’s a portrait she painted of her partner, who had survived breast cancer. The painting links to a 2007 blog post describing how this work was deemed inappropriate for a Texas art show which included other nudes. This decision was made by the other members of the artist’s gallery collective. Not knowing what the other nudes in the show look like, one might still reasonably wonder what, exactly, the artist’s colleagues decided was not “family-friendly” about it, since they included other nudes. What is it that is unfriendly about this portrait? Is human imperfection not consistent with family values? Is it her surgery scar? The suggestion of past illness? Cancer itself? Hmmm.

As it happens, I’ve been percolating an art project for some time now to express some of my experience with the Big Adventure. No surprise to loyal readers and friends, I plan to comment in my usual out-there, candid, irreverent and hopefully humorous way on the cultural assumptions that are made about women and their breasts, about beauty, femininity, survivorship, etcetera and so forth. Not giving too much away, I will just say that this will be a series of works, combining photos, drawing and other stuff, that starts from the original inspiration for my avatar, which was a drawing called “The Well-Dressed Survivor,” an emblematic stand-in for myself who has an array of high heels, head scarves, hats, jewelry and tattoos with which to decorate herself as she makes her way through the cancer journey.

The original "Well-Dressed Survivor"Here’s one of the first of the “Well-Dressed Survivors,” who happens to be wearing a hat and a pair of shoes very like ones that I own myself. She made her debut on the previous incarnation of this blog, which was comprised of a few informal collage pages on my art site. I had so much fun with it, and it helped my sanity so much while I was recovering from treatment, that I decided to take the plunge and start a “real” blog as one of my new year’s resolutions for 2009.

I believe very much in the idea that once you start spending even ‘mere’ mental energy on a notion or a project or a goal, you will find yourself tripping over other notions and projects that will help you on your journey. So, it was not a big surprise when I visited a link that one of my forum sisters posted to Matuschka. ‘Well, yeah!!!!‘ I said to myself. ‘Of course!’ Far from being disappointed that I was not the first woman artist to transform her breast cancer experience through her art, I was buoyed by finding another woman artist who was simpatico, who shared my attitude. If there’s any overarching message in this blog, it’s that while you may have little control over what befalls you, you can choose your attitude towards it. lt’s all in the ‘tude, baby! And so said I to my friend Cathi today, who shared with her FB & forum sistahs some photos of her “breast-free” self, dressed up and looking fine. These photos are wonderful on so many levels, it would take more room than I’ve got here to talk about why they’re wonderful. Besides, they don’t need my purple prose. Like all great photography, they speak volumes all by themselves, without any help from anyone. And they provided one more friendly shove from the zeitgeist to help me get on with my own artistic endeavors.self-portrait by Matuschka

entry in 2009's Creative Cups

How can you not love Matuschka’s “Tattoectomy,” her take on her own mastectomy? And then there’s this fantastic item above, which started out as a bra that was transformed into a sculpture for a fund-raising event known as “Creative Cups.” This art show, sponsored by Adelphi College in New York, invites artists to create works using brassieres, then auctions the works off to raise money for their breast cancer hotline and support program. And guess what else? This is not the only event of its kind. I hope to get one of my local art associations to sponsor one in the future.

Writing blog posts and making art are inherently lonesome pursuits. Their purposes are fulfilled only by being seen and hopefully appreciated by an audience. We bloggers live for comments (hint, hint!), and there is nothing as gratifying to an artist as having your work evoke a passionate response from someone else. But another, perhaps equally important, motivating force for those of us who create is discovering and building on the work of our predecessors, our like-minded, trail-blazing foremothers and foresisters, who give us permission and encouragement to continue our own endeavors.

As an artist and writer, as well as a reader and viewer, I learned a long time ago that the very personal is the most universal. I’m ready now. I’ve got the warm, gentle wind of sisterly support at my back.

Please click on the post title or the comment link below to post a response.

This entry was written by Kathi, posted on Monday, May 04, 2009 at 08:05 pm, filed under Art & Music, Nitty Gritty, Survivorship and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

8 Responses to “The Artful Breast”

  1. All I can say is, thank God for you! You should be so proud of the way you’re helping people through your experiences.



  2. that tattoo above is so beautiful and creative. All I can say is WOW, love it. One lady on bco had a double mastectomy and had an eagle with wings spread, when she raised her arms it was a beautiful full winged flying eagle. So beautiful. Haven’t seen her post in years but she influenced my life. The bra above is also very beatiful and creative. love it. I am spar on bco. Hope you are doing good and cancer free. I am NED right now but we never know what is in store for us down the road. with respect. sherry

  3. LOVE IT!! This is great!! I thought if I needed to get a masectomy myself I def would have gotten a tattoo in that spot…what a fantastic way to express beauty and strength!! BRAVO!!!

  4. Matushka rocks. Her work is definitely spurring me on…

  5. I love it. You nailed it with the attitude. She definetly has it. Awesome photo and so brave. However, I guess once you have gone through that experience you really aren’t afraid of anything anymore.

    Love the bra.

    You rock……glad you are better and in a better place emotionally. Life is good.

  6. Hi Kathi,

    Loved these images. I too keep coming across other women who have/are exploring their experience of breast cancer through art. I love it that as women we can see this as an affirming sisterhood rather than some sort of competition. Love your work!
    Kay x

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