Read all about it. First Place ranking went to artist Michelle Kastner and model Cori Kitamura for their graffiti-inspired mural.
By Peter Jones
The Vietnam War. Fishing. Superheroes.
Those may not be the images typically associated with breasts – but when it comes to creative artists and a breast-cancer fundraiser, anything goes.
After all, it takes a superhero of a kind to wage the war against cancer – and sometimes the simple serenity of casting a pole in the great outdoors can bring a brief peace in the midst of personal struggle.
The cast entries ran the gamut in this year’s Breasts of Colorado, the second annual benefit for Sense of Security, a 13-year-old Colorado nonprofit that helps breast-cancer survivors pay their living expenses while they undergo the physical and emotional rigors of treatment.
Since 2000, Sense of Security has helped distribute about $1.5 million to nearly 1,000 Colorado survivors who because of their treatments have struggled to pay their rent, mortgage, utilities, gas and food bills.
“We are having some growing pains at this point,” Rita McCoy, the organization’s executive director, told the gallery opening at Cuttn it Loose in Englewood on Sept. 19. “What that means is we need all the help we can get from the community.”
Enter the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce, which last year raised more than $9,000 for the cause. Totals for this year had not been tabulated at press time.
Here’s how it worked: Earlier this summer, more than 20 women and two men, including this reporter, submitted our breasts, such as they were, for casting. [In my case, it was a rather painful ordeal involving some chest hair that I’ll never get back, but that’s another story.]
The casts were then handed over to local artists who were asked to find their muse in such general themes as cancer, survival and strength – often by incorporating the individual stories and personalities of their models.
This year’s People’s Choice award was a case in point, fusing universal themes of femininity and protection with the offbeat “girl power” of roller derby.
Becky-joi Smith displays her breast cast, as transformed by artist Julie Scott. The cast took the People’s Choice award last week at Breasts of Colorado, an annual fundraiser for breast-cancer survivors. Smith’s alter ego, Green Venom of the Rocky Mountain Roller Girls, inspired the green serpent-adorned artwork.
Artist Julie Scott said the inspiration for the cast’s green-hued breasts encircled by serpents came from her model, Centennial’s Becky-joi Smith, who skates under the moniker Green Venom for the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls.
“Because snake scales expand and contract, I thought that would be a natural for going over the bosom,” she said. “The crystals are for femininity. The pink on the one side is for the warmth in all of us. And the snakes are very protective. Not many people want to come up and grab your bosom if it’s encircled in snakes, right?”
Other placement winners included a First Place ranking for artist Michelle Kastner and model Cori Kitamura for their graffiti-inspired mural full of sketches, and such phrases as “Courage,” “Never give up,” “Jump for joy” and “If you’re ship doesn’t come in, swim to it.”
In second place came artist Karen Brever and model Cybelle Floyd for a cast that juxtaposed the constriction of disease with the liberation of survival. The left breast is imagined as one confined by a tight, uncomfortable corset, while the right breast is freed by the beauty and comforts of a healing summer.
“You’re tied, you’re bound, you’re restricted by the disease – but through faith, hope and love you can release the disease and flourish again like the flowers in the garden,” said Brever, an artist who doubles as a mammogram scheduler.
Third place went to artist Vinton Ervin and model Tom Munds, a reporter for the Englewood Herald, for a cast that emphasized Munds’s service in the military before and during the Vietnam War, with implicit parallels to a victim’s fight against cancer.
This sort of painting or other embellishment of breast casts was not always easy for artists not necessarily accustomed to working with full-figured plaster.
“It’s a difficult medium. It’s not very forgiving,” said Kyle Bannister, whose cast of Kristin Bailey mirrored Colorado’s breast-cancer awareness license plate.
Artist Robert Platt, whose abstract work incorporated shapes of colors associated with model Renee Wheelock’s interests, agreed.
“I’m used to painting flat, so when you have a 3D surface, it takes quite a bit of time. There’s a little bit of extra effort involved. A lot more patience,” he said.
It was not always easy for the models either – especially for a certain Villager reporter whose chest-hair battle with his casting became the stuff of Breasts of Colorado legend by the time of last week’s reception.
“We learned things last year, and we learned things this year,” co-organizer Eileen Baranosky said of the second annual fundraiser.
“For example, we’re going to cast men who are hairy in plastic,” Rosemarie Cabral, another co-organizer, added with a smile.
“Or lots of gel,” Baranosky said.
Marlene Ainsworth modeled for her beach-inspired cast after her mastectomy.
Artist Karen Brever, pictured, envisioned cast model Cybelle Floyd’s breasts as a study in contrasts: one confined by a tight, uncomfortable corset, the other freed by the beauty and comforts of hope, love and a flourishing garden. The work took second place.Photos by Peter Jones
Artist Christine Blackburn and Villager reporter Peter Jones, the model, show their Superman-inspired cast. Men constitute about 2,000 cases a year in the United States, or about 1 percent of U.S. breast cancer diagnoses overall.Photo by Becky-joi Smith
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