When a local art museum posted information on social media about an upcoming exhibit, I was intrigued. The event was going to occur during breast cancer awareness month. They asked for submissions of art from local artists and asked for artwork to be submitted on bras.
“How fitting!” I thought as I read the details about the event. I loved to paint and knew this was an exhibit I wanted to enter, but I didn’t have a bra. I’d gotten rid of mine after having both breasts removed. I didn’t want to go out and buy one, so I called one of my daughters and explained my dilemma. Quickly, she came to my rescue supplying me with a smooth cupped bra, perfect for a canvas.
I lined my work area with plastic and was about to prime the bra with gesso when I noticed the cups weren’t sturdy enough to apply the medium. Thinking for a few minutes, I decided to pull an old grammar school trick.
When I was in the 4th grade, many of my girlfriends were starting to develop breasts, but I was flat as a pancake. Wanting to feel part of the group, I decided to stuff my tiny training bra with toilet tissue. Instantly, I had the projection desired and no one knew but me.
Pulling out some Kleenex tissues, I turned the bra over and stuffed it full of paper. When the cups were nice and firm, I applied gesso, a priming medium. After the gesso was dry, the bra was ready for paint. My creative juices began to flow.
It took a few minutes to decide on what to paint. I wanted the art to express my feelings toward breast cancer, but also wanted my entry to be unique.
Several years ago, I’d painted a picture for Cure as they were preparing a calendar featuring art. I was honored when my submission was chosen to be part of that publication. The painting I’d done then was entitled, “The Unseen Woman.” It depicted a bald, faceless woman on an abstract background. She was the exact expression of me – often unnoticed and unseen after cancer. As I thought back to that painting, I decided to recreate another on this much smaller canvas.
First, I worked on the background which was very abstract and colorful. After finishing the background, I began to work on the foreground. As I painted, I thought about bras and how inconvenient they were to me. I hated wearing one.
As a young girl, a self-labeled tomboy, I found them burdensome and irritating. But as I grew older, I realized they were a necessary part of womanhood. It took some time to find one I didn’t mind wearing. I preferred ones without lace which could be quite itchy. Most times, I opted for sports bras with soft bands and unrestrictive straps.
Continuing to work on the foreground of the art exhibit, I painted the faceless woman. Layer upon layer, I added detail. I stepped back to admire my work and decided to add one last part. Along the band of the bra, I painted the title, “The Unseen Woman.” I wanted visitors to the exhibit to understand the meaning behind my entry.
Finally, the painting was complete. I allowed the bra to dry for several days before adding coats of polyurethane and then I mailed the bra to the art museum.
A few days ago, I received notification the exhibit was open. I couldn’t wait to visit the museum and see my work along with the work of other survivors.
The Braweswome exhibit by LaGrange Art Museum will be on display throughout October. Hopefully, the vast array of painted and decorated bras will bring a unique awareness to breast cancer.
I’m thankful organizations do whatever possible to promote breast cancer awareness. Breast cancer awareness month is typically signified by the color pink, but not always. The main thing is reminding people that breast cancer is an ongoing health concern for both men and women. As a survivor, I want to do whatever I can to spread awareness, even if it involves an unconventional method.
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