When Venus and Eve had mastectomies: This exhibition showcases scars in high art for breast cancer awareness

An art exhibition in Madrid has taken a spin on promoting breast cancer awareness by showcasing visible mastectomy scars in subjects on traditional high art.
The exhibition, titled “From the skin to the canvas: another take on breast cancer”, displayed digitally-modified versions of three world-renowned paintings — Adam And Eve By Hans Baldung Grien, The Venus and Cupid by Peter Paul Rubens and The Naked Maja by Francisco Goya — all in which the subjects had seemingly undergone mastectomies.

Displayed at the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum of Art, the show marked International Breast Cancer Day with the intent to particularly draw attention to the psychological and physical scars left by the procedure.

Architect and breast cancer survivor Gema Salas, who underwent a mastectomy to fight the disease, said the exhibit left a profound impact on her.
“The first thing I looked for was where the scar was and then I got closer and said, ‘she is beautiful’, something that I don’t say even about myself.
“She is beautiful and it had an impact on me because after the illness, it was a way of empowerment.”
Ms Salas also believes mastectomy scars are viewed as “something strange” by people and the exhibit makes an effort to remove the stigma.
“To me the picture represents your rebirth as a woman after the treatment, when you feel a bit lost,” she said.

“The scar doesn’t make you less of a woman.”

Breast cancer survivor Gema Salas said women who undergo mastecomies often have to learn how to love themselves and their bodies again. Source: Reuters

Juan Alberto Garcia de Cubas, the founder of Fundacion Cultura en Vena (Culture in Your Veins Foundation) said the exhibition also stood as a reminder that breast cancer is not a gendered disease.

“We have performed digital surgical interventions on three great paintings in history.

“With these interventions, we pay attention to the process of the illness — small cancers, mastectomy, female cancer but also male cancer because Adam has also been mastectomised,” he said.

Second-most diagnosed cancer in Australia

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer is the second-most diagnosed cancer in the country.
The cancer causes nine death per day and affects about 20,000 people a year.
It is the most common cancer for Australian women, with one in eight at risk of being diagnosed in their lifetime.

In contrast, one is 600 Australian men are diagnosed in their lifetime.

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