The Breast Cancer Journey

The Breast Cancer Journey

Summer of 2009 my mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  I processed the experience of our journey together by creating a body of work to chronicle the path from diagnosis through treatment. Before her diagnosis, I thought that the increasing presence of Pink Ribbon items in our world was the same as making Breast Cancer visible. Today you can find everything from mushrooms and yogurt at the grocery store to bumper stickers and NFL gear branded with Pink Ribbons ostensibly denoting some corporate contribution to breast cancer research or awareness. Barbara Brenner, executive director of Breast Cancer Action in San Francisco writes, “There is a value to awareness, but awareness of what, and to what end?” in her frustration with financial contributions to “awareness” campaigns over research into finding cure and prevention. This “Pinking” provides a mask to cover the hard truth of the fight with something more palatable. My work makes the actual experience of fighting cancer more visible. This body of work is a collection of honest, emotional pieces about Breast Cancer presented to a world that would often rather hide from imperfection, weakness and illness. As my mother underwent multiple surgeries, two rounds of chemotherapy and aggressive radiation treatments what I saw was anything but weakness.  I continue to be inspired by her grace and strength as she faced this challenging course of treatments.

Each step of the journey from the overwhelming number of questions raised with diagnosis, to spending time with friends and family, surgery, each round of chemotherapy and finally radiation, is depicted as a footprint.  For years I have been fascinated with the quality of images that can be created using a single thickness of line, absent of speed marks and all traditional evidence of the artists hand. Appropriating the mechanisms from an etch-a-sketch I created a series of images traced with a single, unbroken line. There are many twists and turns in the journey, but just as the line remains unbroken so time brings each new step—ready or not.

The fountain began with the image of a woman, post mastectomy, standing bathed in water and light, with a host of faces of those who have walked this path before and those who walk beside in support emerging behind her. She stands with her eyes closed, face turned toward the light and water coming from above; her arms extended in a pose that sits between worship, acceptance, strength and peace. She stands in a basin shaped like a gibbous moon, filled with stones that have been tumbled by the ocean.  For both my mother and I the ocean is a place of renewal and strength, the ultimate giver of life.  These rocks came from that source, tumbled and worn, but solid nonetheless.

This project was supported by funding from a Keene State College Undergraduate Research & Creative Project Grant.

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