Mastectomy issues confronted through art

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Claire Collison with one of the posters in Liverpool city centre. Pic © Claire Collison

An artist who had a mastectomy without reconstructive surgery is raising awareness through life modelling and posters.

Claire Collison wanted to spread the word on the street and help women who may have to make the same decision as her, so she came up to Liverpool last summer from London to work with Metal, based in Edge Hill Station.

She told JMU Journalism: “I decided to make a body of work around my experience of not seeing myself represented after I’d have a mastectomy without reconstruction.

“I’d always been an artist and writer, so when I got breast cancer, it made sense to make work around that area.

“The first thing I was told when I was told I had breast cancer was that I needed to decide whether to have reconstructive surgery at the time of mastectomy, or later – not if, but when.

“I started to look at the facts and discovered that actually not many women do get reconstructive surgery, only 30% of women who get mastectomies do.”

Claire has used her own body in her arts practice for 30 years, but after her mastectomy in 2014, she began to make work about the lack of visibility in society surrounding this – of what she describes the ‘One Tit Club’.

YouTube: Megan Stringer

Firstly, the 56-year-old developed a walk around the city, looking at how breasts were represented on the streets, visiting shops such as Ann Summers and Victoria’s Secret. She also took in Rodney Street, as Liverpool has the highest number of women having breast enhancement in the country.

She explained how symmetrical so much of the architecture is in Liverpool, and if your body’s not symmetrical then how does that make you feel?

The second stage of Claire’s project was called Truth is Beauty; a single-breasted life art modelling monologue. She had people draw her, and these drawings were then transformed into posters. Seven designs can now be found across the city centre.

She said: “I really wanted them to be in your face, proper posters that would say is this a club? And to use the kind of language that would really get people’s attention, so I wanted it to be witty, all the single-breasted ladies and wonky revolution – it says what it means.”

Claire is encouraging people to take photos of the posters and if they spot them tag her. To find out more about the project visit her website.

About Megan Stringer, JMU Journalism