Cancer Truths

A Question of Beauty
 I was an adult confronting breast cancer. I was faced with a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy. I photographed my body and my history, which was now literally written upon it in A Question of Beauty (2000). This frontal nude self-portrait from the waist up showed my mastectomy scar, my face made puffy by chemotherapy and my bald head. I was interrogating the liminal space I now inhabited where I daily confronted conditions of wholeness and incompleteness, a body transformed from life-giver to life taker, gender that no-longer read clearly to outsiders, and lack of control over my body and life. 
My Truths About Breast Cancer

During an artist residency at the McColl Center for Visual Art, Charlotte, North Carolina in the fall of 2003 I continued to explore this topic with My Truths About Breast Cancer.  I wrote with a magic marker on the chest of a friend of mine who was undergoing cancer treatment my unspoken truths about the experience of having breast cancer.

Truth No.1
Digital Print made from Polaroid Positive/Negative Film
 50″ x 40″,  2003

Truth No. 2
Digital Print made from Polaroid Positive/Negative Film
 50″ x 40″,  2003 
Truth No. 3
Digital Print made from Polaroid Positive/Negative Film
 50″ x 40″,  2003 
Truth No. 4
Digital Print made from Polaroid Positive/Negative Film
 50″ x 40″,  2003 
Truth No. 5
Digital Print made from Polaroid Positive/Negative Film
 50″ x 40″,  2003 

Truth No. 6
Digital Print made from Polaroid Positive/Negative Film
 50″ x 40″,  2003
Truth No. 7
Digital Print made from Polaroid Positive/Negative Film
 50″ x 40″,  2003

Truth No. 8
Digital Print made from Polaroid Positive/Negative Film
 50″ x 40″,  2003
Truth No. 9
Digital Print made from Polaroid Positive/Negative Film
 50″ x 40″,  2003

Truth No. 10
Digital Print made from Polaroid Positive/Negative Film
 50″ x 40″,  2003
Truth No. 11
Digital Print made from Polaroid Positive/Negative Film
 50″ x 40″,  2003
Lives in Flux

While in residency at the McColl Center for Visual Arts I held a workshop and worked with a group of women in the middle of treatment for breast cancer. We did writing exercises, wrote our truths about breast cancer, made self-portraits, photographed places we found healing and I photographed their scars. At the end of the project I compiled the information and made the tapestry below which hangs at the Carolina Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. The womwn tell me that it has become their icon and when they pass it in the lobby on the way to see their Doctors they run their hands along the bottom of it.
Lives in Flux
Tapestry, 3′ x 6′,  2004
Lives in Flux (detail)
Tapestry, 3′ x 6′,  2004

Lives in Flux (detail)
Tapestry, 3′ x 6′,  2004

Lives in Flux (detail)
Tapestry, 3′ x 6′,  2004

Fear Embroidery

About the same time I made this small hand embroidered piece entitled “Fear” on a found handkerchief. The word fear written in small red text in the bottom corner reflects on the fear that never quite leaves you once you have had cancer. It is always in the back/corner of your mind.
Fear
Found Handkerchief, Hand Embroidery
8″ x 8″, 2004

Nipple Plates, Nipple Pillows and Other Objects

When I made these pieces I was responding to the pink ribbon breast cancer phenomenon. I felt this fundraising and awareness campaign made everyone feel like they knew something about breast cancer without addressing the real losses and struggles of the women experiencing this disease. My goal was to draw the viewer in with seductively bright, beautiful, fun and seemingly sweet pieces of candy. Then came the disturbing part, upon close-inspection the participant would realize that it was shaped like a nipple and made out of a non-edible material. At this moment the work became a catalyst for personal dialogue with the viewer about the disease, from my viewpoint as well as theirs. The nipples resemble candy, and also reference milagros (small religious objects left at shrines by people seeking miracles). During this period I gave away many of the small nipples to individuals who had personal experiences with the disease and shared their stories with me. Looking back, I feel the process of cutting, sewing, shaping and casting these body parts was part of the healing process for me as I literally recreated the breast I had lost when I had cancer, a mastectomy, and chemotherapy in 1999.
Nipple Plates
Cast Resin Nipples and Found Glass Cake Plates
2003
Nipple Plates
Cast Resin Nipples and Found Glass Cake Plates
2003
Cast Resin Nipples
2003
Nipple Plates and Nipple Sets
Cast Resin Nipples and Found Glass Cake Plates
2003
Pink Sparkle Breast
Cast Resin Breast with Sparkles
2003
Nipple Pillow
Fabric, Resin, Thread
2003
Nipple Pillows
Fabric, Resin, Thread
2003
Nipple Pillow
Fabric, Resin, Thread
2003
Nipple Dress
Fabric, Resin, Thread
2003

Three Nipple Dresses and Purses
Fabric, Resin, Thread
2003


 The Nipplets wearing their nipple dresses passed out resin nipples in a performance that fall at an opening reception at the McColl Center.