By Katherine Cobb
Special to The Journal
SHEPHERDSTOWN — The upcoming Identity Crisis event, an annual fundraiser for breast cancer charities, will get a boost — more like bustiers — from local artists whose handcrafted bodices will be on display in local businesses.
Dubbed “Bodices for Goddesses,” these original sculpted works were either fabricated, modeled after, inspired or wrapped from women and men fighting breast cancer or recovering from the disease.
Organizers Cynthia Fraula-Hahn and Bernadine Somers recruited artists after Jan Hafer suggested the idea to augment Identity Crisis, which will benefit Breast Cancer Awareness - Cumberland Valley for the third year. A number of well-known artists in the region contributed works to Bodices for Goddesses including Fraula-Hahn, Benita Keller, Neal Martineau, Roselyn Mendez, Emily Vaughn, Annie Wisecarver and others.
Fraula-Hahn has helped organize Identity Crisis for the past three years. “Identity Crisis is a wonderfully festive event, but there was still confusion as to what it truly was about,” she said. “When Jan Hafer suggested the art project as a way of drawing attention to the event and breast cancer awareness, my mind immediately went to a more personalized, meaningful way of approaching this concept, thus the sculptures of real women that I could produce with a plaster wrap cast.”
“I was amazed at the women who stepped forward and allowed me to wrap them, some who’ve had mastectomies. These women are brave, beautiful and generous,” added Fraula-Hahn.
“As I wrapped one friend, she discussed how doing this made her feel a sense of community…a magnificent thought. And so I thought long and hard as to how I would paint her torso, and I am proud my composition speaks to who she is and her beauty of body and spirit,” she added.
For Fraula-Hahn, the project is personal in dual ways. One of her dear friends recently found out she has the virulent triple-negative breast cancer, requiring a mastectomy and treatment. She has stayed immersed in her friend’s fight and progress. “So far treatment seems to be working well for her, but there are many dark days ahead,” she said.
The other personal link is her reconnection to her artistry. “When I moved here five years ago after losing my darling husband in a very untimely and unnecessary death, I was broken. I did not even know why I was alive. As an artist for well over 30 years, I’d lost the inspiration and passion I once had,” said Fraula-Hahn. “This project has inspired me and given me back my passion in the studio.”
The sculptures display the unique point of view each artist brought. Various materials were used at the whim of the creator — some feature paint, porcelain, fabric or metal.
Mendez constructed her bodice from upcycled and scrap metal, joined together with rivets and machine screws. The metals include a vintage serving tray, colander and steamer basket combined with various can lids (sardines, beans and jalapeños to be exact) and some scrap steel from museum mount projects.
“I have been collecting can lids for a few years with the intention of doing a larger sculpture but did not have just the right inspiration until Cynthia approached me with the Bodices for Goddesses project. I was instantly attracted to the idea,” said Mendez. “Because I mostly work in metal, doing jewelry work, I gravitated toward that as a medium for this project. I am passionate about utilizing materials that people often throw away or overlook and giving them new life as a useful or beautiful object.”
“While I was working on the bodice, I was thinking about people fighting and battling cancer and the amazing strength it takes to become a warrior, to fight for your life. I have lost friends and family to cancer but I have also seen friends fight and survive cancer,” said Mendez. “The bodice is a sort of battledress, an armor.”
Mendez believes the themes of environmentalism and the fight against cancer are closely linked. “I look at this planet as a mother, a woman. Despite being tender and somewhat delicate, there is a strength and life force that pushes through despite all of the threats to survival,” she said.
The bodice sculptures will be on display in Shepherdstown storefronts leading up to Identity Crisis on August 9, and likely beyond. They will also be featured in a show at Hagerstown Community College in October and the organizers expect the project to continue growing in the year to come.
This article was written for and published by The Journal on 8-6-14. It can be viewed via this link: http://www.journal-news.net/page/content.detail/id/615246/Sculptures-to-support-breast-cancer-awareness.html?nav=5006
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