Artist building giant breast on hill to raise ‘awareness’ about breast cancer
10.22.2012
06:34 am

Topics:
Art
Feminism

Tags:
breast cancer
Bruce Munro


Artist’s rendering of the finished piece

The BBC reports that British light installation artist Bruce Munro is attempting perhaps the largest piece of breast cancer iconography ever created. His project, Beacon on the Hill, will be a “breast-shaped illumination,” 5m (16ft) by 3m (10ft), built on the dome of Long Knoll in Kilmington, in southern England.  It will be made up of 2,730 illuminated plastic bottles and is intended as a tribute to breast cancer awareness.

While the idea of a giant glowing tit is kind of awesome, I’m skeptical of projects that tout “awareness” about breast cancer. Since this is in England, a developed nation with socialized health care, everyone who sees this is probably already “aware” of breast cancer. The cancer non-profit Munro is working with, Cancerkin, is focused on emotional support for patients and their families, but I’m not sure that a giant, disembodied shimmering boob would make any of the women I know feel much better about their chemo, mastectomies, or possibly impending deaths.

There is so much low-hanging (forgive the pun) aesthetic potential when it comes to breast cancer. Bumper stickers and t-shirts can cutely and benignly proclaim to “save the ta-tas,”  and avoid conjuring images of sick and dying women (and men, who also get breast cancer).

This sort of boobs-not-women approach to breast cancer has been analyzed over and over, particularly by the patients themselves. When noted socialist feminist author Barbara Ehrenreich was diagnosed with breast cancer, she wrote in her book,
Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America:

“Something about the conjuncture of “breast,” signifying sexuality and nurturance, and that other word, suggesting the claws of a devouring crustacean, spooked almost everyone. Today however, it’s the biggest disease on the cultural map, bigger than AIDS, cystic fibrosis, or spinal injury, bigger even than those more prolific killers of women - heart disease, lung cancer, and stroke.”

But glowing arterial plaque, blackened lungs, or damaged brain tissue doesn’t look quite as pretty, does it? Munro seems more artist than activist, and that’s fine. His other work looks interesting, creating landscapes of luminescence that appear to have a lovely, strange, ethereal effect. When it comes to art that discusses disease though, I think “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) does a much better job of creating an emotional dialogue with the audience.

People like boobs, obviously—hey, boobs are great! But when we’re talking about a disease where your breasts can actually kill you, is it really particularly artistically insightful or helpful to disembody them, both literally and figuratively? Can’t we just let a giant glowing tit be a giant glowing tit?

Written by Amber Frost | Discussion
Man with breast cancer denied Medicaid


 
Raymond Johnson, a 26-year-old man from Charleston, SC has breast cancer, something that rarely afflicts men. Mr. Johnson, who is employed laying tile was unable to afford health insurance BECAUSE IT COSTS TOO DAMNED MUCH.

Susan Appelbaum, an angel working in disguise as a patient advocate at the Charleston Cancer Center, tried to help Raymond get into a state program providing Medicaid for breast cancer patients. Mr. Johnson was denied the coverage because he’s a man and the program is only for women.

The SC Department of Health and Human Services has asked the federal government for help. But Raymond Johnson needs the treatment NOW. From WCIV ABC-TV news in South Carolina:

“Each treatment is probably roughly around 10 grand,” said Susan Appelbaum, the patient advocate for Raymond Johnson. She says, Raymond still needs several more chemotherapy treatments.

“Right now I’m stuck with these bills and I’m trying to find a way,” said Raymond, who just underwent his second round of chemotherapy at Roper Saint Francis Hospital.

Breast cancer in men may be rare, but it does happen. Statistics show one in 1000 men will get it, roughly 2,100 cases a year.

Susan Appelbaum hasn’t given up.

“He’s young. He’s working and he’s worried this could be financially devastating to him.”

She is now contacting lawmakers, trying to get the medicaid program changed. Raymond Johnson calls her his new best friend.

“I don’t know where I’d be without her,” he said.

 
Best wishes to Raymond Johnson. May he live long and thrive. The only thing he did wrong was not being born in Canada. Ms. Appelbaum is a fine human being for not letting him slip through the cracks of our horrible healthcare system in this country. I do hope this story has a happy ending.

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion