Thursday, September 13, 2012

On the Painted Bra Art Project, creating for a cause, and art as a way of saying goodbye.

It began with a bra.

Actually, let me begin at the beginning... it goes much further back than that.

Last year, I was contacted by Anna Smith Braden of Huntsville, Alabama, asking if I would like to participate in the first year of the "Painted Bra Art Project" charity event to raise funds for breast cancer awareness. I like to think that a huge part of my job, as an artist, is making the world a more beautiful, innovative, and better place, so of course I agreed... plus, painting on underwear sounded awesome. Last  year my bra was entitled "Love your mountains", and was purchased by Lee Ann Harrison (thanks again, Lee Ann!). All proceeds are donated to the Liz Hurley Breast Cancer Fund at Huntsville Hospital Foundation.

There are a bunch of cool aspects about this project-- I had the pleasure of making connections with artists from around the world, it forced me out of my creative comfort zone, and I was able to be involved in an amazing and worthy charity that has a special place in my heart. My favorite thing about the project, however, is that each artist gets to dedicate their "bra-sterpiece" to a strong woman, or women, they know who have fought the brave fight with breast cancer. I dedicated my bra to my Aunt Barb.

"Love your mountains" was also dedicated to my Aunt Barb in 2011. Unfortunately, she passed away several months ago after a very long and valiant fight with cancer, although to my knowledge she never complained about her situation or the unfairness of it. My aunt was one of the kindest and most warm-heartedly genuine people I've ever known; she had a way not only with people, but with animals, and her true love was horses-- they say you can easily judge the character of a person by how they treat those that can do nothing for them. She ran a horse boarding stable in Southern Wisconsin for many years, and was one of the reasons that I developed such a love for horses (many of you probably aren't aware, but I grew up riding and also did gymkhana and barrel racing with my Quarter Horse, Romeo, in my younger days). I wanted to create a special bra that spoke to the love my aunt had for horses, and had also nurtured in myself and my cousins since a very young age.

In the past several months, I've been experimenting with mixed media and combining elements of paper onto canvas along with acrylics, and I decided to continue in this vein with my "bra-sterpiece". I wanted it to have a bit of a 3-dimensional, almost "pop-up book" effect. Along with the theme of horses, I wanted to incorporate a Western setting, as I relocated to Denver, Colorado last year, and many of my recent paintings are colorful and mountainous landscapes.

For several hours I reverted back to childhood and sketched, doodled, colored and cut out the shapes of horses on paper. It was wonderful. I believe this was the first time I've drawn equines since I was in 8th grade, when most of my life, thoughts and every breath revolved around riding.

I was jealous of her assets.

I wanted my bra to have a solid base, like a sculpture, and not be "floppy", so I fashioned a beautiful lady out of cardboard and bubblewrap, and then gesso-ed over the bra to make it stiff and easier to work with.

After the gesso dried, I painted both the bra and a long, thin piece of canvas to a deep green. I hadn't originally planned on using canvas, but the paper was creating a very pointy "Madonna" effect that was not desirable (in my opinion), and the canvas ended up being much more pliable. One of the great things I love about working with mixed media is the ability to substitute different materials for others that might work better, even in a crunch and on a whim.

I hot-glued and glued and glued some more, and several glue sticks later, every stallion, mare, gelding, colt and filly was attached just where I wanted them-- running through a green meadow underneath a mountain skyline, and with big puffy clouds overhead. There was just one thing missing-- birds soaring in the sky, so I attached a few swooping sparrows in the clouds overhead on wires.

..and here is "Breast of the West" in it's entirety-- upcycled bra, paper, canvas, paint, glue and wire. Dedicated to my aunt, Barb Keyes, long-time fighter of breast cancer, genuine horse-lover, and really, truly amazing and strong woman. I hope this is what heaven looks like for her.

Once again, I can't express my appreciation for The Painted Bra Art Project and Anna Smith Braden, its founder, enough. It's a fantastic project for an amazing cause, and it allows artists to GET INVOLVED and help make that change we keep talking about needing in the world. For me, it also gave me a chance to say goodbye to my aunt and to reflect on the memories I had with her, especially as a young child at their horse boarding stable. It was just something that I needed to do.

The Painted Bra Art Project event will be held on October 26th in Huntsville, Alabama, which is when the online auction and live bidding begins as well. "Bra-sterpieces" can be submitted until October 14th... so artists GO: pick up a brassiere, host a bra-painting party, or simply pour yourself a glass of wine and go nuts at home with your paper, paints, sparkles, wire, ribbons, clay, metal bits and Be-dazzler. You can find more information at Do it, I swear... you'll feel great. It's good to get out of your box.

"Breast of the West" can be found on The Painted Bra Art Project's Facebook page HERE.