Saturday, January 30, 2016

Art stems from 1 in 8 women getting the disease

Torso project shows how breast cancer survivors turn suffering into display of healing, courage

I've long believed in the concept of turning a negative into a positive.

So I admire the breast cancer survivors who — with help from families and friends —  plaster-cast their bodies into an art project.  

As one artist, the uni-named Matuschka, says in a foreword to the book, "1 in 8: The Torso Project," many of the artworks "show the face of female suffering and fragility" yet "demand a response from the viewer, as if the women are saying…'Deal with our losses, with our vulnerability, and fears, yes, but also with our beauty, strength, and courage.'"

The figures in the title refer to the horrifically real odds that 1 in every 8 women in the United States will get breast cancer.

Symbolically, the first "torsoettes," as the women who participate in the art project are called, numbered eight.

The project promotes exhibits of casts made and decorated by survivors in Western Massachusetts. It was originated by Pam Roberts, the book's editor, a woman who opted not to have reconstruction or use a protheses and has made at least half a dozen torsos to show her scars.

Her purpose? "To help her "excise and exorcise the fear of breast cancer and transform it into an expression of courage and love," she says in her book.
"An Once of Prevention"

The paperback includes a color photo of "An Once of Prevention," a piece by Betsy Corner that used limbs and leaves to represent "the lush green of our hills and valleys, the trees which breathe for us" — and, at the same time, to act as a warning about the "chemical toxins that permeate our soil, food, water, and air.

Also, as a rallying cry to "use our purchasing power to change corporate practices" that put those chemicals "in everything from laundry products to lethal herbicides and pesticides."                                                
The project has gone beyond its small-town origins and has now been the center of multiple free, torso-creating workshops in Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.

It occurs to me that its motto might be, "Have torso, will travel."
Amy Wasserman and her art.
The torso project is one of a dozen resources listed in the playbill for a new play, "Breastless," by Laurel Turk, that addresses the fact that "there are very few voices expressing outrage at the breast cancer epidemic that continues on."

A friend who's seen it tells me that enthusiastic audiences have been packed with breast cancer survivors.

I, Woody Weingarten, celebrate breast cancer survivors — especially my wife, Nancy Fox — in my book, "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," which is aimed at male caregivers.

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