Surviving: progress and details
Thank you all for such warm and emotional responses, and for sharing with me some of your own experiences with breast cancer. I should confess that, although I had finished this doll over two months ago, I was very hesitant to show it, because exposing my fears this way to others, made me feel very vulnerable. Creating a physical embodiment of my fears with my own hands felt both frightening and cathartic.
But the breast cancer doll didn’t start out the way you see her. She started out like this:
At first, I wanted to explore the idea of metastasis, the most advanced stage of cancer, where cancer cells spread to different parts of the body through the axillary lymph nodes. After having studied many horrifying photographs of women with visible lesions, I made this first version the the doll.
Basing the look of the lesions on the real ones, I wanted to draw the comparison to something living and invasive, like some sort of a cunning, parasitic organism, such as a spider or a flesh-eating beetle. But, for some reason this didn’t sit well with me, partially because it was rather horrifying and nauseating, so I decided to abandon that angle and choose a more open-ended and a much more optimistic approach.
It’s as if I didn’t want to give my doll a death sentence. I realized that, for my own sanity, she had to be a hopeful doll, with many subtler layers of meaning and symbols.
One of the cancer survivors had given me this idea for a henna crown, that she herself had done, and I thought it was very beautiful.
The Surviving doll is also in a way a Christian martyr Saint Agatha of Sicily, who was tortured and had her breasts cut off in punishment for her faith. Having first seen it in a museum a couple of years ago, I was very stricken a painting of St.Agatha, holding a platter with her amputated breasts and to my astonishment, gazing down at them calmly and peacefully, as if she wasn’t bothered by the ordeal at all.Â It was impossible not to see this as symbolism for struggle with breast cancer, double mastectomy and survival, and it made me think of how other women experienced it and how I might experience it myself, if I’m ever faced with cancer.
At one point I almost titled this doll St.Agatha: The patron saint of breast cancer victims, but that didn’t sit quite right with me for some reason….don’t know why….perhaps in part because I’m an atheist…..just didn’t have the right message in it, i think.
Does any one have any thoughts, opinions or a preference for either title?
What do you think about my decision to go with a double mastectomy symbolism instead of the severe lesions?
This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011 at 4:21 am
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