Torso talk: Fundraiser takes shape

FRONTING UP: From left, Breast Cancer survivors Anne Carroll, Heather Steevens and Bette Cosgrove show off casts of their torsos, which have been made into works of art by local artists. 
FRONTING UP: From left, Breast Cancer survivors Anne Carroll, Heather Steevens and Bette Cosgrove show off casts of their torsos, which have been made into works of art by local artists. 

A group of Wellington breast-cancer survivors have turned their torsos into works of art, with a little help from former Miss Universe Lorraine Downes and mayor Celia Wade-Brown.

Nine members of the CanSurvive dragon boat team have had casts made of their chests as a fundraiser to send the crew to the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission dragon boat festival in Florida in October.

Their uniquely decorated busts, along with those of Downes, Wade-Brown, and actress Miranda Harcourt, will be displayed around Wellington, starting next weekend at the NZ Art Show, before a full exhibition and auction next month.

Team member Bette Cosgrove, 52, said the experience of having the casts made was tough for some of the survivors, as the moulds showed the scars and impact of operations and treatment. "There is a range of shapes, and all of the different scars of breast cancer treatment."

Each model was then paired with a different artist who showcased different techniques - Cosgrove's torso was designed by Nicky Kane and uses a mosaic of tiny pieces of tissue paper.

Others feature paua shell, a letter from an oncologist outlining treatment options, and one is designed by an automotive painter.

Wade-Brown's design, by artist Andrew Moon, features the mayoral chains, but with the initials of mayors changed to those initials of every member of the CanSurvive team.

She said she got involved in the project because the women were a "great example of strength and survival". Her sister had also survived breast cancer.

Downes, who is an ambassador for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, said having her torso cast was an amazing experience, and the final piece by Liz Ritchie was "clever and beautiful".

"The torsos are works of amazing art, and each represents a personal story of each woman, and I think the public will be moved by what they view."

The casts were made by master plasterer Paul Stanton, of Carrara Ceilings in Johnsonville, using a skill he learned from the foreman of the Madame Tussauds waxworks museums.

He also wanted to contribute to the final show, so worked on his own creation showing a man and a woman, with Maori carvings representing the woman's illness and the man's role as supporter and family caregiver.

Carrara Ceilings owner Trev Dalton said the women came in only for advice, but it was clear the firm needed to step in and help.

It provided materials and labour for the project, and Dalton said it was worth it. "The girls that have been through it and come out the other side are the sort you want to get involved with, because they're so positive."

The bust of CanSurvive member Anne Carroll, 53, features a print of magnolias, a design she saw for the first time yesterday.

It was a way to celebrate the strength of women, she said. "You're still beautiful, no matter whether you have boobs or haven't."

Team members ranged in age from their 40s to 70s, and it was a chance to get fit with people who knew what you had been through, Cosgrove said. "We're all in the same boat - ha ha - we're all different, from all walks of life, and we don't ever really need to talk about our cancer . . . we just focus on paddling together, working as a team."

The team is trying to raise as much of the $150,000 cost of the trip as possible, with team members then picking up the rest of the bill.

Click here for more information on the art, survivors and auction

The Dominion Post