It has become a dictum in medical circles that breast reconstruction following mastectomy improves wellbeing. The Journal of the American Medical Association states, “A variety of techniques for breast reconstruction have been developed during the past 50 years to lessen the negative influence of mastectomy on quality of life.”
But life is rarely tidy. Women’s experiences following mastectomy – with and without reconstruction – are as varied as the human condition itself. This project explores these experiences to better understand how we respond to loss of a defining symbol of femininity, how we form and re-form body image, what pressures and influences inform our decision-making, and how we communicate with our doctors and others about our wants and needs. Through interviews and compassionate, creative portraiture, we will bring post-mastectomy women’s voices and bodies from the shadows and challenge viewers to rethink their own perceptions of beauty, sexuality, and vitality.
We will recruit 12 to 15 women in the Juneau area to participate in one-on-one interview and portrait sessions. We aim to include women of varying ages, sexual identities, treatment choices, and racial or cultural backgrounds. The project will culminate with a show in October 2021, breast cancer awareness month, along with a publication and website.
Art credit: Photo transfer collage by Sarah Connaro
Funded by Alaska (November 2020)