When I named this painting, I wasn't aware that the phrase "Pink Washing" was already being used to describe the practice of corporations using breast cancer awareness/fundraising as an advertising ploy, or even worse to sell products that are implicated as a causal factor in the development of breast cancer. Its frustrating and frequently outrageous, and might end up being the topic of another painting at some point.
My experience of being "pink washed" was more about the societal view of breast cancer as girly, and pink, and probably more than a little sparkly. That somehow a pink ribbon and images of smiling bald women (who always seem to still have their eyebrows and eyelashes) captures what it means to have this disease. That breast cancer isn't a "bad cancer" (is there a good one?). And how persistently people in my world wanted (and still sometimes want) to interact with this part of my life only at that level.
The pink ribbon efforts have been a great success in opening up our societal ability to even say the phrase "breast cancer" without people feeling uncomfortable. I have distinct memories as a teen of people talking about someone having cancer and dropping to a whisper, half hidden behind a hand; "breast cancer." Its so good that we're past that! What we're not past is the internal pressure we feel to escape the anxiety, via distraction and avoidance, when confronted with someone going through something horrific that we know could be happening to us or someone we love. My observation is that the pinkification of breast cancer serves as a powerful mechanism for avoidance of the realities.
If this is new for you, what you are looking at in the painting is a mastectomy. The stitch line is where the breast was removed, and the bruising above it is the result of lymph node removal. The bandage below is over the implanted drains, the bulb of which she is holding full of blood and fluids. The piece of tape on the upper arm gives notice to hospital staff to not use that arm for blood pressure, IV's, or injections, because with missing lymph nodes pressure and fluid changes, as well as infections, can cause a serious condition called Lymphedema. What you can't see is the nerve and muscle damage that has occurred and the disfiguring scars that will develop. Also not visible is what will happen as a result of chemotherapy and radiation, both long, and short term, and potential hysterectomy, hormone inhibiting medication, and other treatments none of which are without major side effects.
Breast cancer is not pastel and pretty. It is raw, and hard, and frequently barbaric. If this painting makes you uncomfortable then it is doing its job and you are seeing things a little less pink.
I wear a lot of hats in life, encompassing a variety of roles and relationships. I am becoming more comfortable with the whole "cancer survivor" hat, even finding silver linings in unexpected places --- like adding artist to my self identity. "Blogger" hadn't really appealed to me until I began getting requests to talk about what lies behind my art. So I'm going to give it a try. If you have gotten to this page, you have probably noticed from my paintings that I am quite frank about my experiences. Some of the images are stark and difficult to look at. To me, beautiful is not the same as pretty. "Beautiful" encompasses complexity that can include pain, tragedy, and darkness. Therefore there can be a strange beauty present in stark emotional and experiential truth. I am a seeker of beauty within pain, and of the beauty that grows out of pain. If you are too, we'll get along just fine.