I was recently approached by a museum professional (aka my hubs) with a rather...er...unusual request. He asked if I would do a painting to be auctioned off in order to raise money for breast cancer research. Sure I said, no biggie. Then he brought IT home. A very large plaster cast of a bust. Apparently the roller derby girls here were cast for this purpose. I was to paint over one of their chests and the painted bust would be used to raise funds.
Now, I am all for raising money for breast cancer research, but I wasn't entirely comfortable with the project and here is why....
Women with breast cancer are often faced with the loss of their breasts and this is often traumatic as their femininity is unfortunately tied in with these lumps of tissue that rest upon their ribcage. Why then do the fundraising efforts focus on this rather than the spiritual and emotional journey that these women face? Maybe it is not what a woman who has had a double mastectomy wants to see. I don't know I haven't been there, but I can only imagine these might make them feel their loss more acutely. Why would this be the image for the fundraiser? I know what you're thinking, "Because this cancer is about the breast, duh!" Well sure, but do we make plaster casts of male anatomy for testicular cancer research? Um, no. Never.
I just feel as though there is more than a bit of objectification going on here. The project was to paint these face-less chests. Plus, women aren't the only ones who suffer from breast cancer!
Then, my friend Sarah Kramer found out she had breast cancer. Read about her journey here. She writes candidly about the process that she continues to go through from her mastectomy and moving forward.
It was through reading about her experience that I came up with a rather simple idea for the bust I was to paint. Inspired by my friend and her beautiful spirit, the spirit that makes her such an inspirational woman--- not her breasts. I focused on the beauty and femininity that are inherent to her I decided to ignore those breasts entirely and paint a small bouquet over the heart, emphasizing the nature of a woman lies within her heart, not in her breasts.