Inspired by her friend’s personal journey with breast cancer, artist Cynthia Fraula-Hahn created a sculpture for her by using a wrapping process with plaster embedded gauze to create a body caste of the model’s torso, which was then painted and embellished to celebrate the survivor and her strengths.
This act of support and solidarity has since turned into a not-for-profit exhibition called The Bodice Project: An Exhibition for Breast Cancer Healing, featuring the work of eight artists to promote “emotional healing through the arts for women and men facing the challenge of breast cancer and life after treatment,” according to their website. The exhibit will be housed in Morgantown this week and can be viewed at the Erickson Alumni Center from Tuesday, Feb. 19 to Friday, Feb. 22.
“The survivors repeatedly mention the need to recapture the feeling of joy about their bodies,” according to The Bodice Project. “We have found that those dealing with breast cancer and its aftermath find emotional healing when seeing their struggles and triumphs reflected in art...The exhibit space becomes a place for the survivors, families, friends and all viewers to examine the issues and their feelings about their experience with breast cancer.”
As you enter the gallery, you’re struck by the sense of uniqueness and individuality of each sculpture, allowing you to feel the essence of each model’s personality. Every sculpture is different from the next, representing the uniqueness of the model’s journey.
“The bodice sculpture represents their beauty regardless of surgery or other forms of treatment,” their website reads. “The result was an amazing collection of sculptures that reflected a breadth of style but all focused on the strength and beauty of women and men who have had breast cancer.”
Quotes from the models can be found throughout the exhibit as well as information detailing the story behind each sculpture. One sculpture, an elegant piece featuring dogwood blossoms was created after the model, Victoria, told artist Kathryn Bragg Stella that she hoped to have the flowers tattoed across her chest in lieu of tattoed nipples following her reconstruction after undergoing a double mastectomy.
“When I began work on the linen, I looked up the meaning of the dogwood blossom: ‘love, undiminished by adversity,’” the artist wrote. “I hope that Victoria’s beautiful spirit shines through this piece.”
Another piece was created by artist Anne Rule-Thompson in honor of her friend who was diagnosed with a BRCA-2 gene mutation. On the inside of the sculpture, it features Solomon’s Seal to symbolize her Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. The sculpture is resting in a meditative pose coined the Hidden Prayer as an homage to her time spent as a yoga instructor.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to shed light on the positive medical advances that are saving women today...especially my beautiful friend,” Rule-Thompson writes.
These two pieces are a small representation of the moving, colorful and intricate sculptures that fill the gallery. This emotional exhibit promotes healing for those impacted by breast cancer and allows victims and supporters to connect through the art.
“I love this project because it’s different,” one model writes. “It shows what’s really happening. It shows that even though you go through this process, there’s tomorrow, and that’s what I care about. Tomorrow. Always. I have to.”