The plan was simple, thought Linda Ahearn. Create a mold casting of her sister’s chest and then make copies from the mold for artists to paint and raise awareness for breast cancer. But plans have a way of changing.
In late 2007, Ahern did a casting of her sister’s chest prior to a bilateral mastectomy operation due to breast cancer in the Toscana Studio and Gallery in Oro Valley that Ahearn owns and operates. She was going to make a half-dozen or so copies, and local artists would decorate and paint them. The project would be named “Goodbye Girls, Hello Life.”
But the project didn’t happen that way.
Three months after Ahearn began working on the project, she too was diagnosed with breast cancer. After seeing her mother go through lumpectomy after lumpectomy, surgery after surgery, and eventually die from breast cancer in 1986, Ahern chose to skip that and have a bilateral mastectomy.
But not without first making a casting of her chest.
Fast-forward to today. With the encouragement from a friend, Ahearn made 26 castings. Half of them are of her chest, and the others are of her sister’s. They were given to artists in the Southern Arizona Arts Guild to paint, cut, carve, glue and color in any way, shape or form they thought best spoke to them about the project and what it means to them for the Breasts for Life project. The exhibit’s opening will be Oct. 29 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Ahearn’s gallery.
One of the participating artists is Oro Valley resident Joe Bourne. His interpretation of the project uses silver, red, brown and gold wax on one side of the casting and a light pink color on the other side. Faint X’s and O’s represent hugs and kisses deep within the artwork.
“The X’s and O’s are buried underneath, so it is subtle,” Bourne said. “It’s on three different layers.”
To Bourne, the different tones represent all the tones of women in the world, He noted that men can get breast cancer as well.
“My wife is a breast cancer survivor of 17 years,” Bourne said about why this project is important to him.
“They were able to catch it in time but she still wanted to have a mastectomy.”
Bourne knows another person, who is a fan of his art, who is dealing with breast cancer, too.
Another local artist, Deanna Thibault, said a lot of people who are participating in this project are doing so because they have had breast cancer.
“I have had ovarian and uterus cancer,” Thibault said. “I did not have breast cancer.”
Thibault’s best friend had the same cancer and surgery, but her friend had the surgery two weeks later. Her friend later died from her cancer.
“I did not even have to have radiation,” Thibault said. “They caught mine really early, so I don’t know what it is like to go through all of that, but I just can’t even imagine how devastating it is.”
Her art piece has a mixture of colors, pictures, papers, textures and drawings that she has layered on top of each other.
Oro Valley resident Diane Loving has taken a very elegant approach to her art piece by taking art drawings she has made and then shrinking them in size. She then uses a black marker to give the piece an organic vine look, tying the drawings together.
“At a certain age every woman you know seems to have had breast cancer or knows someone who has breast cancer,” Loving said. “My mom had it and my best friend had it. (Her friend) is OK now, but every time she goes for a checkup, we all hold our collective breath. You just have to hope for the best.”
Ahern is hoping for the best with this project. All of the money raised from the sales of the Breasts for Life art pieces will go toward a breast cancer foundation.
Now able to disconnect herself emotionally from the casting of her and her sister’s body being shown in this medium, Ahearn understands some people might not feel the same way.
“I think it is still pretty hard for some women to look at breasts after they have lost them,” Ahearn said. “So I am very sensitive to that, and there are a lot of people that see it differently than I do. But I am hoping that maybe this will give them the opportunity to look at them maybe a little bit differently.”
What: Breasts for Life project showing at the Pause for Beauty Art Show
Where: Toscana Studio and Gallery, 9040 N. Oracle Road
When: Oct. 29, from 6 to 9 p.m.