Creating “Art” with a tumor, one survivors way to visualize her cancer

On Studio 360 from NPR, they highlighted an artist, Leonor Caraballo, and her project “Object Breast Cancer” who took her actual MRI slides from her cancer diagnosis in 2008 and made a solid object from the tumor that was scanned there. I put the word “art” in quotes not because it is not an art object, but the word art has all these connotations. Like it’s supposed to be pretty, decorative or even functional like furniture- that is was created to be art for art’s sake. This piece is none of those things. Instead this piece is cathartic and powerful. It’s not about creating a wonderful object to sell in a gallery and for some one to put on their mantle- it’s about the artist trying to process what just happened to her in a way she can understand. A visual way. Not only did it help her visualize what was removed from her and what caused her cancer- but it ended up helping her breast cancer surgeon,┬áDr. Alexander Swistel measure tumors not by their overall size but by their volume. Which can change treatments for patients.

For me, as a breast cancer survivor, not until today as I was listening to this piece on radio, did I think about what my tumors would have looked like. I always thought one of them was roundish because they said it was 2.5cm. I never thought it would have tentacles and maybe look like swiss cheese because of the chemo. If it really does have tentacles and look this nasty -I am so glad I got a double mastectomy- just to make sure it’s all gone. This artist wears it around her neck- enjoying the fact that it is literally outside her body. Cancer and it’s many affects never stops surprising me.

Sculpture of tumor by Leonor Caraballo, Object Breast Cancer