Posted by: jeanne | December 18, 2008

cancer art 18


okay, here’s the last piece of this painting. i did the back of it all at once, in a marathon effort to finish it.

i was looking at the back for awhile, thinking how unhappy i was with it. i was thinking of putting all sorts of things on it, mostly words, maybe some cutouts from newspapers or the internet. i even sat on the computer for awhile and looked for references i could use.

but in the end i decided that i should paint my own self portrait there instead. so i got naked and got jim to take a picture of me, printed it out, and went down to the studio with it.

i used oil paints on the front of the canvas, and acrylic on the back. can i state here, for the record, that i hate acrylic? thanks.

i had to completely overrun the pink outlines of my much slimmer daughter in order to do me. i chose raw umber and white, and yellow ochre and white, and burnt sienna and white for the skin tones. the skin turned out much darker than my own skin, which is pasty pink. i ended up with a medium brown, which speaks to all women’s experience with cancer, not just white women. i never wanted this to be about white women or americans or any other exclusivity (except it was never going to be about men with breast cancer). it happens to all women, or a subset of all women, so i wanted my figures to look like all women. well, nobody looks like my daughter, but you get the picture.

so i painted in my enormous outline with the lightest of these colors (ochre and white). and then i went in with the darker colors and made shadows.

it was funny putting in my one remaining breast. i actually have been wanting to do this self portrait on top of this bra setup for some time, because the incongruity of what the bra is like and what my breast is like. i sag, and have to really stuff it in if i’m going to wear a bra. i wanted to show how far from reality these fake breasts really are, how artificial the fixes for breast cancer are.

i made the nipple really pink, not at all realistic, but more the color of the background. i wanted to explore the psychological affects of the color pink, which at first calms people down but with familiarity wires them up. used in jails, it produces psychosis. makes me nervous, personally.

i wanted to show how thin and sparse my pubic hair has become over the years. i wanted to show how fleshy i’ve gotten. i wanted to show my gray hair. all these things differ markedly from the ideal image of womanhood presented on the front of the canvas.

i had sewn in more pink ribbon for the wrist restraints. but you couldn’t see them, so i pulled them out and went and found an old pink sweatshirt and cut off the edge of the hood and its ties. i cut that in half, and ended up with two drawstring lengths of pink cotton. i sewed them into the canvas like breast cancer ribbons. now you can slip your wrists into them and tighten the restraints around you.

it’s somewhat disturbing to have a painting of myself with a mirror for a face. but disturbing is what i’m going for here. it makes it a lot easier to do a self portrait if you leave out the face. that’s not exactly the point, tho.

i painted over the scar so it would be visible, and continued it onto the surgical tape, ragged and crooked like it is on me. i thought it was important to show the scar, even tho you can’t see it when i’m dressed. it’s the hidden wound that is in fact the whole point of this exercise.

so there it is. i will start in on a very brief show and tell of my second breast cancer painting next time, and the third one isn’t even on the drawing board yet.

now, where to exhibit them? who the fuck is going to want to show this kind of painting? and when i get to the next one, what cancer organization is going to be interested in it, because it’s very critical of cancer organizations, and we know that means no funding no way. silence dissent.



  1. Incredible. I am stunned for words. This is so powerful and so poignant.

    I can’t see anyone not EXHIBITING this painting. This needs to be seen.

    I am so hit by the back of the painting.

    Love Renee

  2. […] have anything to say.  what i have to say, i write.  i did some ‘real’ art once.  breast cancer paintings.  they were incredibly ugly and tasteless, and i’ve never shown them.  again, it […]

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