Purging the Cancer Art

During the time I spent having cancer, being treated for cancer, and then healing both from the cancer and the way the treatments that saved my life ravaged my body, I made a lot of art projects. I wrote a lot of blog posts. I needed ways to express myself, and so I made things. I made paintings and little books filled with words and sculptures and masks. And when we began to pack our apartment up into a crazy amount of boxes that we hauled with us to California, all these little projects began to surface. They hid between novels on the book shelf, they were tucked into drawers I emptied, and they were tacked to bulletin boards.

I made a big pile of these colourful artifacts of all shapes and sizes. I couldn’t muster the desire to pack them together with my books or clothes or other things. These things embodied my cancer time, my sick experience, the months I spent processing and healing. I wanted to leave them behind, but it seemed cold and heartless to throw them in the trash with the bathroom rug that we didn’t want and the broken lampshade.

The pile grew. On the top corner of my bookshelf, I found a plastic bag full of my hair. I cut my long hair before chemo began, and I had the stylist cut it so that I could donate my hair so that it could be used in a wig. But then I found out all this scandalous stuff about the organizations, like Dove and Locks of Love, that run those programs, and so the hair languished in a plastic bag on top of my bookshelf and I forgot about it until we were moving. Add to the bags of hair little boxes with hearts on the top of them containing all kinds of secret notes, sculptures of babies I wanted so badly and of my body with a hole in the place of the left breast, booklets filled with words blurred with water colour, sticks with stories engraved on the side of them… the pile was big. I debated about adding the basketfuls of pills still in my hallway closet, and eventually did add those pills. I was mortified at the number of bottles full of medicines I had amassed.

And now what?

And then I knew. I packed it all up, made Sam and the babies come with me, and we marched down to Jericho Beach. A couple months ago, I made this fake left tit out of clay and buried it at Jericho in a bra I cut and sowed together to make a pouch, which I nestled in a box I decorated with yarn and fabric. Because you know, they threw my left tit in the trash. So this was like a reparative thing, where me and some others cared about what happened to that left tit, and it should have been like it was when I buried it at Jericho.

So, obviously, all these projects should be buried with the tit. And so the babies came in the stroller, and I tossed in a giant bag of pink powder leftover from the video shoot, and then while Sam waited I dug into the shallow hole where we buried the tit and unearthed the corners of the box and the bra fabric- it was still there! And then I arranged the pony tails of hair and collage-masks and little boxes, and then I dumped the hundreds of pills on top of it, and covered it all with the hospital gown I wore in the music video, and finished it off by dumping the entire 5 pounds of pink powder on top. I covered it up with a few leaves, dusted my hands off, and felt really awesome about it. So, I stood up and kicked a few more leaves on top, and marched out of the under brush to where Sam was waiting, and we went for a walk on the beach.

It’s absolutely mind blowing, to me at least, how incredibly powerful making things, and doing things with the things you make, can be. Like really, burying all those projects made me feel so light. And when I was making all those projects, they helped me move through. And then, leaving them behind and walking away from them- my feet just felt so firmly planted on the ground, and my shoulders felt so square, and I felt so in control of my life, my fate, the world, my world.

And it was awesome. I felt renewed and so much lighter. It felt like the cancer was over. Like at least, the really shitty parts. And besides, if I ever need that fake tit or collaged mask, I know where they’re buried. Can you imagine if someone found that collection of stuff? They would be like what the fuck….? 

So that’s basically a really long preface to sharing these weird photos, which I love but would make no sense without all this explanation. Maybe later I’ll post the stop mo I made from the boob burial, too. That was cool, but too intimate (or so I thought at the time) to post here. So, without further ado, the photos…


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