In October 2011, I had the honor of being part of a wonderful project for The Keep-A-Breast Foundation. This was my favorite project of 2011, and probably the most memorable and meaningful art work I’ve ever had the opportunity to create. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do…ever since I was introduced to The Keep-A-Breast Foundation and their important mission, by my brother-in-law, Mark (who was involved with KAB as a designer for many years and is still an ambassador for their cause). The Keep-A-Breast Foundation’s art shows and events exhibit “one-of-a-kind plaster forms of the female torso, customized by artists and auctioned to raise funds for breast cancer programs all over the world.”
Many celebrities, athletes, musicians and artists have participated in KAB’s Art Events and Cast Exhibitions. Breast casts of participating celebrities are turned into works of art by selected artists and designers. Conversely, breast casts are also transformed by the celebrities themselves. The painted casts are displayed and auctioned off at the exhibitions and online to raise funds supporting breast cancer awareness and education programs.
I was ecstatic when Mark asked if I would be interested in painting a cast for an upcoming fashion show and cast exhibition in San Diego. It would be an opportunity for me to express myself while contributing to this very important cause. Mark said that there were no rules for what to paint or how to transform the cast. It was up to me and I had complete artistic freedom to create a work of art. A dream project!
I immediately discussed what I envisioned: metallic paint in copper or bronze with a patina to resemble armor…symbolizing strength and courage; hands pressed together in prayer or meditation, as seen on Hindu or Buddhist goddess statues, with ornate and detailed decoration or tattooing like henna…to represent reflection and self-awareness; decorative scrollwork and flowers…for beauty and femininity. Lastly, I wanted to somehow incorporate a mermaid theme (a recurring theme that I’ve used in my own personal artwork since high school), perhaps in the form of fish scales…to symbolize a connection between two worlds, of finding balance and of transformation. At this point, I had the cast, but had no idea who it belonged to. I only knew that the castee was a young breast cancer survivor and that she would be holding her cast as she walked down the runway at the fashion show. That in itself made this project even more inspiring for me.
I had already started painting, when Mark sent me this link to The People’s Fleet video, to give a little more insight into the casting process…and I learned that the cast I was painting belonged to Sharishta, who is featured in this compelling video. Not only did watching this video put a face and a story to the cast I was painting…as I was blinking away tears, I realized what a profound effect art can have on our lives and how it connects, inspires and educates us. I was painting with purpose, for Sharishta, in honor of her courage and strength in her fight against breast cancer.
After I completed the cast, Mark compiled this video of the progression of the painting, using the photos I had taken during every step of the process. He also created the awesome music track for the video.
This was such an amazing experience for me…and to see Sharishta walk down the runway, proudly holding her cast and just glowing with beauty, strength and confidence, was truly incredible. I was so honored and deeply touched to be a part of this. It was so great to finally meet Sharishta after the fashion show. She is absolutely beautiful, kind and sweet…a wonderful person and a remarkable woman.
She was surprised to learn that I had painted this without knowing her background…she is of Indian heritage…so the prayer hands, the henna decoration, the symbolism had meaning to her. Through this painting, we were connected, even before we had ever met. And that’s what made this experience even more special and meaningful to me.
A few weeks after the fashion/art show, I received a lovely note from Sharishta…along with a framed photo of the two of us at the show…and I was extremely touched, not only by her appreciation of the painting, but that she had allowed me to be a part of this moment in her life.
A huge thank you to Sharishta Shourie, Amanda Nixon of The Keep A Breast Foundation, and Mark Cruz for this opportunity and experience. I am deeply honored and humbled to have been a part of it.
For more information on The Keep A Breast Foundation and the important work they do, including the KAB Cast and Art Exhibitions, I Love Boobies campaign, KAB Non-Toxic Revolution, and their participation in various nationwide music tours and sporting events, please visit their website and facebook pages: