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Chapter 4- Breasts Breasts Breasts

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April 16, 2003

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining multi-media artist Mendelson Joe for lunch in his northern Ontario artist-studio-home-retreat. He had just finished painting the portrait of my breast friend Tannis Slimmon for his Women Who Work series.

Our dining conversation eventually found it's way to the topic of "breasts"... what else is new. Mendelson cut to the chase and asked me a pointed yet very interesting question. "What is your fascination with breasts. Sue"?

At first I hesitated. How was I to sum up my intense 28 month relationship with mine and the nation's breasts in a neat bundle of a sentence. So, I laughed instead and claimed, "probably the same reason's as you".

I have come to find breasts fascinating. When I first started the Breast of Canada project, I was more interested in focusing attention on an aspect of women¹s health that I deemed underemphasized; Breast Cancer Prevention. Little did I know of the political issues and societal taboos associated with the non-cancerous breast. It became evident to me that up to the point of detection of cancerous cells, the breast was strictly seen as a sexual object. Once identified as cancerous, the breasts designation changed to diseased. We can talk about disease. But sexual objects are just too much for us to wrap our heads around.

I had inadvertently failed to recognize this distinction. And so, even though my subject matter was based on the prevention of a disease, my subject was too erotic and therefore off limits in many people's minds.

Who would have thunk that these often annoying pounds of flesh could be the source of such double agent duplicity.

Beyond the intriguing social complications are the wonderful breasts themselves. I¹ve seen more shapes, sizes and varieties of breasts than almost all the people I know...except Melanie Gillis, our main photographer. With great regularity, my male friends ask if there are any "openings" or "assistant jobs" available. They really envy me. And I can understand why. I marvel at the differences. I appreciate the quiet calm and friendly energy of the breast. They seem like lovely puppies that are their owner's best friends. Added to this is the relationship of owner and owned. Some women are so shy, other's so loving, and still others seem completely oblivious to these remarkable and powerful body parts.

It is the spring of 2003 and we are close to putting the finishing touches on our 2004 edition of Breast of Canada. I'm still running this project hand to mouth. Which is a drag and one that I hope shifts with our third calendar.

My overall energy has decreased but in part that is a result of personal life issues that I'm dealing with. And part, it is the uphill push of explaining the difference between fine art and pornography.

In my gut, I know that Breast of Canada has the potential to expand a pervasive and unhealthy perspective about breasts held by many in our society. The question is, can I keep this ball rolling long enough for this notion to catch on?

If you believe as I do, that breasts can play more than one role in our world. If you would like to see our societies views expanded. If you wonder what you can do to help bring breast health issues to the foreground, please allow me to make a suggestion.

Buy at least TWO calendars this year. One for you and one for your breast friend. This alone will broaden the the scope of this grassroots, independent initiative to greater success. The only thing this project needs right now is you.

Contact Sue Richards at [email protected]

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