Painting 2 Cancers, revisited
In 2005 I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Six months later with breast cancer. Both breasts were affected, I had two mastectomies. One in February 2006, one in May the same year, this one combined with a double reconstruction. In 2008 I started a visual diary on blogger about my cancer trajectories, titled painting2cancers. Going through the process I created a series of 'modified' paintings most of them based on existing artworks by male artists who painted women as subject. One of the paintings I modified was 'The Indian Dance,' a painting by Kees van Dongen. For an assignment I had copied van Dongen's work in art school years earlier. In 2009 I painterly amputated her left breast, wanting to convey that losing a breast didn't mean losing my vitality, or my womanhood as I internally experienced it. This month, I got the painting out of storage to restore damage and clean off dust and dirt. I recognised its energy but not the image. So I decided to do a painterly update and reconstruct her breast. It's a bit of a dilemma as it served as a visual record of a certain time in my life and of what happened to my body and it also served as an image to relate to for other women going through breast cancer. Emotionally though, it still feels like a self portrait to me and I want to let it progress with me as my life and my body changed. That's not to say that I will blur the scars, but even those are not that visible anymore on the outside, however much they define who I have become. It's on the easel now and I already 'see' how I'm fleshing out the figure more, the way I myself have fleshed out more into a mature woman's form with curves and more flesh in arms and legs. It's as if in 2009 I painted a young woman, too slender here and there ... And it's probably no coincidence that in The Anatomy Lesson, I again reflect on the way women's bodies are approached in art and science, by artists and researchers and doctors, men and women. I don't know about you, but I even see a visual formal resemblance in one of the paintings I made for that body of work, if only for the colour palette and its compacted energy.
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