Bra art exhibition raises funds for breast cancer group

Monday, September 27, 2010

It was like any canvas painting of a peaceful orchid and lilac-filled garden on a summer day -- only this was hand-painted on the cups of a pink 36C-size bra.

"My co-worker is a breast cancer survivor and told me to enter the contest," said Judith HeartSong, an art director at Metropolitan Center for the Visual Arts in Rockville. "We talked about her story, and this is what we came up with."

Her bra was one of 80 that were part of the recent Cups Full of Hope bra art exhibition at the Center for Innovative Technology in Herndon, hosted by Success in the City to raise money for the Tigerlily Foundation, a breast cancer support, education and advocacy organization.

"Keep Calm and Carry On" was the title of one glittery, furry bra whose artist was inspired by the phrase said to "raise morale of the British public in wartime."

One bra's cups were decorated into two big eyes by an artist wanting to make a "dumbfounded expression" out of a man with wayward eyes. She called it "Here's Looking at 'Yours' Kid."

"These bras symbolize this terrible thing that happens to you, and you turn it into a work of art," said Maimah Karmo, a breast cancer survivor and founder of the foundation. She was with Stage 2 breast cancer four years ago, at age 32.

Success in the City, a networking organization of high-level businesswomen, raised $2,000 through the bra auction, and registration and submission fees.

Sharon Ritchey looked stunned when it was announced that her bra had won an award. For her entry, she simply wrote on the cups in black marker quotations such as "hello, goodbye ovaries" and "I am not brave."

"Breast cancer is not pink and girly," said Ritchey, who drew her inspiration from breast cancer chat rooms online.

One of the judges, predisposed to breast and ovarian cancer, approached Ritchey at the end.

"I saw yours, and all I could think about is the ugliness that comes with breast cancer," she told Ritchey. "The doctors took purple marker and outlined my body on where they were going to cut. That is ugly."

-- Vanessa Mizell

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